TRUMBULL >> All season Cheshire’s been haunted with the memory of last season’s Class LL final defeat. After a near-perfect performance in the semifinal, the Rams get a second chance to win the state crown.
Top- seeded Cheshire swept fifth-seeded Fairfield Ludlowe 3-0 (25-11, 25-20, 25-14) at Trumbull High School Thursday in the Class LL semifinals. The Rams worked like a well-oiled machine, according to Cheshire coach Sue Bavone.
“We only missed four or five serves the whole night,” the coach said. “We had a game plan going in and we executed.”
With the win, the Rams head back to the state title game where they will face second-seeded Staples. Last season, after the team bus never showed up, the Rams car pooled to the final and were swept by Darien.
“A lot of these kids lost in that final,” Bavone said. “Most of the kids on the floor were in that final, our setter our libero, a lot of these kids played in that game. They got a taste of it, but they want to get back there.”
Cheshire (26-0) was led by Jillian Haberli’s nine kills, six digs and two blocks, Sarah Rodgers’ 14 assists and six digs, Phoebe Carmichael’s nine digs and Maria Buzzelli’s six digs.
“We all really worked together as a team,” Buzzelli said. “Every single part of our game was working together. Everyone just played well.”
The Rams started fast, opening up a lead as big as 11 in game one en route to a 25-11 romp. Bavone said the fast start was crucial against a bigger Falcons team.
“That was our goal,” she said. “We are much smaller than they are. I didn’t want us to be intimidated by their size, so we just figured if we just play solid side-out volleyball, we’d be okay.”
“They had nerves,” Ludlowe head coach Meghan Skelton said of her team. “Unfortunately we were unable to shake the nerves and that’s what happens. You can’t do that in the semis; you got to come out, you to be confident and strong. Unfortunately we couldn’t get there as a team.”
Game two was back-and-forth, with the Rams seizing control with the score at 17-15. An 8-5 Rams run closed it out. In game three, the Rams clinched a trip to Berlin by wearing down the Falcons, according to Buzzelli. After five ties and eight lead changes to open the game, Cheshire forged ahead at 12-11 and went in a 13-3 run to take the game and the match.
“They (Cheshire) played great,” Skelton said. “They didn’t have the mental game that we did. And they did a great job. I’m going to miss (my senior class) them. They accomplished so much. I just feel badly for them that it couldn’t have ended on a more positive note. Again, I couldn’t be more proud.”
“I feel like our energy and our excitement really effected them,” Buzzelli said.
And against Staples, Cheshire will need to have just as much energy, according to Bavone. She said the Wreckers are a typical tough FCIAC team and like to attack the outside, unlike the Falcons who tend to hit inside.
“They’re a very good team,” the coach said. “We’re going to have to bring it. Bring it like we did tonight.”
Regardless of style of play, Buzzelli said the Rams will be ready, especially after last season’s loss. She said before the game Saturday, she just wants her teammates to be loose heading into the winner-take-all match.
“I’m going to tell them, ‘play your best, have fun, nothing hits the floor and show them who Cheshire is. Show them who we are,’” she said.