EAST HAVEN >> They’re one of the top volleyball programs in the state. But after losing back-to-back Class L finals in 2014 and 2015, RHAM head coach Tim Guernsey felt a change was needed.
“One of the things we talked about at the beginning of the season, believe it or not, was changing the culture of our program,” Guernsey said. “We wanted to try to get everybody to work a little bit harder and to put in a little more time and to try and live by the motto that we’re going to work on every single ball and just give everything we have one point at a time.”
The Sachems took the new motto to heart.
Junior Alana Hruska had 28 kills, junior Anna Barry added 19 kills, and junior setter Allie Welch had 53 assists to lead RHAM to a 25-19, 23-25, 25-18 and 25-23 victory over Farmington in the Class L championship game Saturday at East Haven High School.
No. 2 RHAM, which was making its ninth finals appearance in 10 seasons, has won six Class L titles since 2007.
“It’s just a great team with great kids,” Guernsey said. “I’m so happy. They worked hard from day one. They absolutely deserved this and I did not want to see anything other than that happen.”
Seniors Erica Jaus and Caroline Cullen each had 13 kills, senior Mary Schoennher had 1o kills, senior Ali Troup dished out 37 assists while senior libero Danielle Gan had 26 digs for top-seeded Farmington (24-2).
The Central Connecticut Conference foes were meeting in the finals for the third time in four seasons. After the Sachems took the crown with a thrilling five set match in 2013, the Indians returned the favor with a five-set win in 2014.
“I’m super proud of our kids,” Farmington coach Laura Arena said. “It’s a huge accomplishment to be back here time and time again. This is a wonderful rivalry. It’s a competitive rivalry. And I think it’s some of the best volleyball in the state.”
Farmington rolled through an unbeaten (18-0) regular season without dropping a set. The streak included a 3-0 sweep over RHAM on Oct. 7.
But the Sachems (25-1) got a measure of revenge in the CCC championship, defeating the Indians 3-0.
“We knew coming in they were going to be a great team,” Guernsey said. “It was a rubber match. We tried to focus on what we need to do and not necessarily what they were doing. It was a great game. It was just a matter of finishing at the right time.”
Hruska, who was named the tournament’s outstanding player, had a sensational match for the Sachems. She was at her best at the end of set three, fueling an 8-1 run to close out the set 25-18 and lift RHAM to a 2-1 lead.
“They got there offensive momentum with Hruska in the front row,” Arena said. “That was the one area where we didn’t have a solution for.”
“We wanted to work harder and have a lot more energy than in previous years and that’s what we did today,” Hruska said. “It feels really good to come back and win it this year, especially for the seniors.”