On Friday at North Haven High, Amity defeated its rival when it mattered most.
The Spartans topped the Rams 3-2 (25-18, 15-25, 25-19, 15-25, 15-6) to capture the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament championship.
“It feels so great,” said tournament MVP Micaela Cardozo. “We haven’t won against Cheshire in the championship in so long, so to be able to do that and push through everything; they’re a great team, but we always say when it comes to a fifth game it’s about who wants it more. And we wanted it so badly.”
This is the Spartans’ first outright title since 2007’s win over Cheshire. The two teams split the title in 2012 when the final was canceled due to inclement weather.
Cheshire, which was chasing its fifth straight conference crown, has work to do heading into the Class LL tournament, according to coach Sue Bavone.
“Obviously (Amity is) a very good team and they brought it,” she said. “They did what a team is supposed to do in a fifth game. They came out very confident and very strong. That’s the way I would hope we would have come out.”
Despite the loss, Cheshire still got 33 assists from Eleonora Ascheri and 18 kills, five digs and an ace from Marli Green, who Bavone said was the “best player on the court.”Meanwhile, Amity’s Cardozo had nine kills and eight digs, Kathleen Walsh had 15 kills and four digs and Katie Helfenbein had 10 kills. Jaiden Williams added 36 assists.
“I am so proud of every single one of these girls, whether they were on the court or not,” Helfenbein said. “They helped us get this trophy. We worked so hard and we did it.”
The Spartans got it done with a fast start. Amity controlled the serve in the first game, jumped out to a 20-12 lead and held on. The Spartans had 15 aces and 54 service points in the match.
“If you can’t serve, you can’t get the point,” Cardozo said. “It was incredibly important for us to have a good serving game. Danielle Nordyk had a great game serving for us.”
Nordyk finished with seven service points and four aces.
In the second game, Cheshire was able to handle Amity’s serve and keep the Spartans on the defensive to win the game by 10.
Cheshire continued to control the match as Amity trailed 4-0 to start the third game before Davis called timeout. The Spartans picked it up and eventually led 20-11 before holding off a late Rams rally.
“I told them, every time you play, sometimes it’s not going to go your way for a couple points, but you’ve just got to shake it off. Every point is just worth one point,” Davis said.
Cheshire responded and took the fourth game. The Rams gained a 12-9 lead and went on a furious 9-3 run to pull comfortably ahead 21-12 before wrapping things up to set up a winner-take-all fifth game.
The Spartans almost squandered a 2-0 lead during the Oct. 12 match, but raced out 9-2 in the fifth and went on to victory.
“We were in this situation before and we knew we could do this,” Helfenbein said. “We still wanted to play (the fifth game) brand new. We just had confidence in ourselves.”
It showed. It was déjà vu on Friday. Amity took a 9-2 lead again and held on for the victory.
But this time it wasn’t just a regular-season match. The Spartans are the SCC champions.
2015 SCC Championship
Amity 3, Cheshire 2
(at North Haven)
Game scores: 25-18, 15-25, 25-19, 15-25, 15-6
Notes: A-Micaela Cardozo was named SCC Player of the Year, Tournament MVP and coach Seth Davis was named Coach of the Year.