HIGGANUM >> After a storybook championship season a year ago, Haddam-Killingworth volleyball coach Robin Callender knew things weren’t going to be easy in 2015. The Cougars were returning just one player with varsity experience from a team that rolled to Shoreline Conference and Class S state titles.
Callender was also filling some big shoes while replacing legendary Hall of Fame coach Rich Langer, who had founded the Cougars volleyball program and announced his retirement prior to what became a glorious final season.
As if on cue, H-K got off to a rocky start this fall, already suffering losses to Cromwell, Valley Regional and Morgan.
But on Wednesday night, Callender saw glimpses of a team she knows is capable of continuing H-K’s winning tradition.
Powered by senior captain Carley Moyher’s 20 kills, and senior Kyrie McCormick and junior Sarah Porter, who each had 10 kills, the Cougars defeated Coginchaug 25-10, 21-25, 25-18 and 25-17 at the H-K Fieldhouse.
“We’re trying to jell together as a team and work together and just get our offense rolling because that’s where we were struggling,” Callender said.
Callender was “ecstatic” with H-K’s performance in game one. The Cougars jumped out to a big early lead and never let up.
In that first game they really clicked and it showed,” Callender said. ”It built their confidence. In the second game they were making some silly mistakes but then they regrouped for the third and fourth games.”
The Blue Devils (3-3), who were missing a libero and outside hitter to injuries, took control of the second game behind the serving of senior Caitlyn Sibiskie. Junior Jessica Coughlin found an open spot on the floor for a kill on the final point, evening things at 1.
“We came back with a strong game in the second set and I thought that was going to turn it around,” Coginchaug assistant coach Omar Ramirez said. “But again we let our guards down and our emotions. Our serve-receive was what suffered. H-K had a good service game. They served strong and deep and that probably affected our offense.”
Porter was at her best in game three, while Moyher, McCormick, sophomore Katherine Porter and sophomore Samantha Mohammed made some key points in game four as H-K built a 6-0 lead and never trailed in that final game.
“I’m very proud of all of them,” Callender said. “They have great attitudes and are really playing like a team. I know they have the talent. It’s just believing in themselves and getting the job done. Tonight they learned that they can finish.”
Callender has been H-K’s junior varsity coach for the past five seasons. She’s also an H-K alumnus who played volleyball for Langer.
“It’s full circle,” Callender said. “I love this high school and I want to give back to the school. I had a great four-year experience here with Coach Langer as my coach and I’m thankful that he gave me the opportunity to coach. I want to do the best that I can to continue the success that H-K has been known for.”