CROMWELL — East Hampton’s volleyball team, the only one to beat Coginchaug in the regular season, did it again Friday night.
The stakes were much higher, though.
The Bellringers came back from two sets down and took the fifth, 15-12, to capture the Shoreline Conference tournament championship at Cromwell High’s Jake Salafia Gymnasium.
Coginchaug won the first two sets 25-23 and 25-21, only to see East Hampton storm back 25-22 and 25-23 to set the stage for one more.
The match was a thrill ride from start to finish. There wasn’t a lead or rally that felt quite enough — until the end, when East Hampton erased a 12-10 deficit with the final five winning points.
“This was the first time this season that we pulled together as a team without any outside influences,” East Hampton coach Molly Grabowski said. “The girls really came together to win this.”
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And the Blue Devils aren’t finished yet. At 20-2 overall, they head into the CIAC Class S tournament, where they are the No. 2 seed. But that was of little consolation Friday.
“They have been in battles all season,” said Coginchaug coach Courtney Manciero, referring to the Bellringers. “I think we just got tired.”
East Hampton (16-3) was second to Coginchaug in the Shoreline regular season. The teams split their two meetings, each winning on its home floor.
“Coginchaug is one tough team,” Grabowski said after extracting herself from the middle of East Hampton’s celebration. “They beat a lot of teams 3-0 this season.”
Even riding the wave of its third- and fourth-set wins, that momentum abandoned East Hampton (16-3) out of the gate. The Bellringers crept within 7-6 of the Blue Devils, but Coginchaug ran off the next three points. It was indicative of the small spurts that defined the match.
“In a fifth set you always want to get out quickly, but that didn’t happen,” Grabowski said.
Instead, East Hampton had a late rally in itself, and it turned out to be decisive as the Bellringers rallied from 12-9 down to tie it, revving up their loud and loyal fan base.
When a Coginchaug return went wide, giving East Hampton the lead, Manciero called a timeout. When a long rally ended with another Coginchaug return going long, Manciero called timeout again.
To no avail. A final Coginchaug return found net, setting off a wild East Hampton celebration.
“This is completely the girls pulling this off in the fifth set,” Grabowski said. “They wanted it badly.”
The teams are on opposite sides of the Class S bracket and could see each other again. East Hampton is the No. 3 seed and plays host to HMTCA in the first round Monday. Coginchaug has a first-round bye and will meet the Cromwell-Lyman Memorial winner in the second round Wednesday.