BERLIN >> Waterford captured its first state volleyball title in school history with a 25-18, 25-13, and 25-13 sweep over Ellington in the CIAC Class M final Saturday afternoon at Berlin High School.
“I’ve been coaching for 21 years,” Waterford coach Beau Lucas said. “I’ve coached collegiately, I’ve coached professionally, and I’ve coached scholastically. This is the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. And it’s because of them more than anything. Just the love that they have for each other. And they’re playing for the love of the game.”
Senior outside hitter Mikayla Shelburn, who was playing with a broken thumb, powered the Lancers with a game-high 12 kills. Shelburn also added four digs en route to earning the game’s Most Valuable Player honors.
“It was an amazing season,” Shelburn said. “We did exactly what we needed to do and executed and stayed calm. And we have amazing players on the team. It’s the best feeling ever.”
Shelburn ended the first two sets with terrific kills off passes from senior setter Vanessa Kobyluck.
“It’s so hard to pick a most valuable player for our team.” Lucas said. “But I strongly believe the reason why she got it is because she is so selfless. She gives up her body, literally. She’s out there with a broken thumb and playing her heart out. The team and anybody on the court has no choice but to just rally behind that. The recipe is amazing and she is the cream that rises to the top in that recipe.”
— Chris Landry (@landryWHS) November 21, 2015
Senior Mikayla Tourjee collected 10 kills and nine digs, senior Haley Taylor added six kills and served six aces, while Kobyluck finished with 32 assists, eight digs and three aces for Waterford.
Ellington, seeded No. 7, was led by senior Cassandra Holmes (eight kills and six digs), senior Erin Wardrop (six kills), junior Sawyer Morrow (seven assists), and senior Brianna DeLand (17 digs).
“I think it was the first time that we had some middles to face that were tall,” Ellington coach Allison Watras said. “It caught us a little by surprise . We were doing our best to get around the blocks and in the end they outmatched us. It was a deserved win by them.”
The fourth-seeded Lancers (20-4), who also swept Woodland in the semifinals, were impressive from start to finish. Leading 10-9 in the first set, Taylor went on a huge service run to pace a 13-2 spurt. Taylor’s ace capped the spurt to give Waterford a 23-11 advantage.
“Taylor did that for us in the semis, ” Lucas added. “She went on an amazing run and (Woodland) couldn’t recover from it. This time she did it in two games.”
The Knights (17-7) also stayed close early in the second set, getting a pair of kills from Wardrop in the middle to tie it at 12.
But the Lancers responded with a 13-1 run, which was highlighted by a pair of service aces from Tourjee, two kills and a tap-in for a point by Shelburn, and a middle block from senior Opal Willox.
Taylor’s accurate serving also fueled a 10-2 Lancers’ run in the middle of the third set as Waterford stretched a 10-9 advantage to 20-11.
“We worked on (serve-receive) all year,” Watras added. “We have our days where they’re good and days they’re bad and today wasn’t our best. That gave us a little bit less of a chance to set up our offense. When our offense is on it’s unstoppable.”
Also for Waterford, senior libero Jillian Sykora had eight digs, senior Avery Kosma had 10 digs and two kills., and Willox had six kills and one block, and
“(This win) speaks to the girls,” Lucas said. “They are truly a family. They love one another and they bond so well and battle together because of that bond. Today they peaked. We wanted to peak at the end of the season and we tried to manage that all year long and make sure we kept learning and growing and worked on the fundamentals and the little things. And they did it today. They peaked at the right time because Ellington’s a very formidable opponent.”