STRATFORD — Winning SWC championships has been an annual occurrence for the Joel Barlow High girls volleyball team. The problem is that despite those six consecutive titles, the season annually ends in disappointment.
Coach Carol Asplund’s Falcons have come so close to winning a state championship in her 13 years at the helm . . . close, as in Buffalo Bills close. They have never won one and lost in the state semifinals last year, and in the finals four times in the last 10 years.
But if the Falcons can play two more times the way they played in Saturday’s Class L quarterfinals, the streak just might end in 2017.
“We absolutely want to win it all this year,” senior Ava Campano said after Barlow’s 3-0 sweep against Stratford. “Winning the SWC is great but we work 110 percent every game and every practice because we always want more.”
Barlow’s 25-14, 25-14, 25-12 victory over the No. 3 seed Stratford (20-4) was impressive in every way. The No. 6 seed Falcons (23-3), led by hitters Campano (14 kills) and Kiara Robichaud (16 kills, six digs), were outstanding near the net, played great defense, the passing was excellent and there were minimal unforced errors.
Another effort like that could get the Falcons past No. 7 seed Woodstock in Wednesday’s semifinals. Then would come either top seed defending champion RHAM or No. 4 Guilford in Saturday’s final.
“We know RHAM is the best team,” Asplund said. “They beat us (3-0) in last year’s semifinals but we know we can play with them if we get that far.”
Stratford knew it was in trouble from the opening serve. An early 4-4 tie in the first set turned into a 14-4 Barlow lead behind the hitting of Campano and the serving of Taylor Paradise, and the Falcons never let up.
“They’re phenomenal,” Stratford coach Lisa Buccieri said about Barlow. “We knew it would be tough. It’s so hard to prepare for a team like this. They do everything right.”
The second set was more competitive. Led by Julia Torreso (nine digs, two kills), Jacqueline DeCresenzo (seven digs, six assists, one kill) and Gillian Mairconda (seven service points, five digs, three aces), the Red Devils were determined to make this a game and trailed 15-10. But the Falcons scored seven points in a row to make it 22-10.
The third set, when Barlow jumped ahead 11-1, wasn’t close as reality set in for the Red Devils.
Caitlin Colangelo had 39 assists for Barlow while Julia Mullin had five kills, Scotland Davis had eight digs and Jess Muczynski had five digs.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Barlow hitter Ava Campano, who was the MVP of the SWC Tournament, was the most active among the Falcons’ taller girls, finishing off 14 kills.
“We had a great season; I never dreamed of something like this happening,” said Stratford coach Lisa Buccieri, whose team, which was not expected to be a contender, finished 20-4.
Campano, Kiara Robichaud and Julia Mullin were just three of Barlow’s taller players. For most of the game Barlow had four or five players on the floor who were taller than Stratford’s tallest player.