5 STORYLINES TO WATCH
L STANDS FOR “LOADED”
If you’re looking for conference champions, you’ll find plenty right here. The Class L bracket features four champs with No. 3 RHAM (CCC), No. 4 Naugatuck (NVL), No. 9 Joel Barlow (SWC) and No. 5 Guilford (SCC), as well as a pair of runners-ups in No. 1 Bristol Eastern (CCC) and the No. 6 Masuk (SWC). That’s not to mention No. 8 Woodstock Academy, a Class L finalist last fall, and No. 2 Avon, which is 17-1 and reached the CCC semifinals. The tournament field is so deep that a possible rematch of last year’s state final between Barlow and Woodstock could take place in round two, and the winner could then line up against top-seeded Bristol Eastern in the quarterfinals.
Greenwich spent much of the season at the top of the FCIAC standings and the state poll, but the Cardinals were given the quick boot from the conference tournament when they were upset by Warde in a five-set quarterfinal match. Greenwich is 18-2 overall – the other loss coming to Westhill – and owns the top seed for the Class LL tournament. If there’s a silver lining to the FCIAC defeat, it’s that the Cardinals should be well rested for a deep run in the states. Early bumps could include a possible second-round match-up against conference foe Darien, and a possible showdown with Trumbull or Cheshire in the quarterfinals.
EARLY CLASS LL BATTLE
In 2018, the Cheshire and Trumbull volleyball teams struck conference gold, with Cheshire topping rival Amity for the SCC crown, and Trumbull shutting out favored Westhill for the FCIAC title. This year, both the Rams and Eagles were denied repeats as they were eliminated in the league semis. They’ll have to get by their first round opponents, as No. 9 Cheshire hosts No. 24 Simsbury on Monday, and No. 8 Trumbull hosts No. 25 Hamden on Tuesday, but a juicy match-up between these two powers looms in the second round.
For the second straight year, Seymour went undefeated during the regular season only to fall in the NVL title game, as the Wildcats fell to Naugatuck in a five-set final. If history repeats itself,, Seymour will finish the season in a celebratory pile on the court, as last year, they won four straight matches and claimed the Class M crown with a 3-1 win over Weston in the final. The ’Cats are again the No. 1 seed, and are looking for their third state crown in four years. Big challenges could come from No. 4 Law, No. 5 Woodland, which fell to Seymour in last year’s semis, and No. 12 Weston, last year’s runner-up, as all three are on the same side of the bracket as the Wildcats.
PATRIOT GAMES IN CLASS S
Coventry has done everything right so far this season and, at 22-0, is the lone remaining unbeaten team in the state. The top-seed in Class S, the Patriots defeated Granby for the NCCC championship, and are now four wins away from their 12th state title in 17 seasons. They dropped just four sets this fall, with two coming in a season-opening 3-2 win against Woodstock Academy. Coventry is the clear favorite in the tournament, but will face challenges from No. 8 SMSA, an NCCC rival and a team Coventry beat in last year’s semis, along with No. 2 Aerospace, No. 3 Lyman Memorial, and No. 4 Hale Ray, all of which have had impressive seasons.
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
EMMA APPLEMAN, GUILFORD
The Indians have had a fantastic season with Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Shelton in the SCC final providing the biggest exclamation point so far. Appeman, a junior outside hitter is one of the key weapons with more than 300 kills and 140 digs, and nearly 50 aces, Guilford will need its top weapon to produce in a difficult Class L field.
PAULA HERNANDEZ, WOODSTOCK ACADEMY
The reigning CHSCA Player of the Year, Hernandez has led an almost entirely new cast to a 16-5 record and an appearance in the ECC Div. I semifinals this season. She’s racked up more than 400 kills, 450 digs and 50 aces this year, and is a key to the Centaurs’ chances in Class L
ZOE LOWE, BRISTOL EASTERN
Lowe and the Lancers won their first 22 matches before falling to RHAM, 3-2 in a tough CCC final on Saturday. The Lancers’ leading weapon as an outside hitter, Lowe is adept in all aspects of the sport, collecting more than 330 kills, 150 digs and 70 aces. Bristol Eastern is the top seed in Class L.
MARGARET NOLAN, LUDLOWE
Nolan was a hitter but moved to libero to fill a team need late in the season and the results have been spectacular. She collected 74 digs in the FCIAC tournament, including 40 in a five-set win over Westhill in the final, when she earned MVP honors. Ludlowe’s defense was key to the conference championship, and the 11 seniors on the Falcons’ roster will be aiming for one more title before graduating..
SOPHIA THAGOURAS, WESTHILL
One of the top all-around players in the FCIAC, Thagouras contributes in several categories, playing both right side and setter. Westhill was disappointed in the conference playoffs again, falling to Ludlowe 3-2 to finish as the runner-up for the second consecutive year, but the Vikings are the No. 3 seed in Class LL and could make a strong bid for a state title.