— Mike Madera (@MikeMadera2) November 8, 2016
HAMDEN – Throughout the 2016 season, Hamden coach Trish Shugrue has preached about working on the little things. According to Shugrue, those “little things” would lead to the bigger things Hamden has been striving for.
Monday evening in Hamden was proof of what Shugrue has been preaching. Behind 13 kills from Jasmine Augustin and 11 kills from Shanikqua Thompson, No. 13 Hamden defeated No. 20 New Britain 3-1 in the opening round of the CIAC Class LL state tournament.
The state tournament win, 25-18, 22-25, 25-23, 25-14, was Hamden’s first in the ten years since Shugrue has been at the helm. Hamden advances to the second round Thursday evening at No. 4 Ridgefield, which had an opening round bye.
“It is amazing,” Shugrue said of the win. “One of the things I tell the kids is I love watching them play. I tell them hard work will pay off. We always tell them if they take care of the smaller things, the bigger things will happen. It always comes back to that.”
Hamden, which improved to 14-8, looked as if it would cruise to a quick victory when a kill by Thompson gave the Green Dragons a 23-16 lead in the opening game victory. A booming kill by sophomore Maya Epps had the Green Dragons on top 12-9 in the second game, but the Golden Hurricanes were not going to go away easily.
Trailing Hamden 18-15 after kills by Hamden’s Thompson and Augustin, New Britain turned the tide. An ace by sophomore Talia Marks gave New Britain a 23-20 advantage and another kill by Deija Santana ended the game for the Golden Hurricanes.
“We never quit,” New Britain coach Michelle Abraham said after her team closed the year at 10-11. “We pushed to the end. The third game could have gone either way. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We were one of the top 24 reams in Class LL.”
The third game could have gone either way. An ace by Sophia Flanders put Hamden on top 15-13 and was part of a 6-0 run which had the Green Dragons on top 20-13.
A kill by New Britain’s Jessica Torres Rivera stopped the run and started an 8-1 streak by the Golden Hurricanes to even the game at 21. A kill by Hamden’s Augustin had the Green Dragons up 24-23 and Lauren Dooley gave the second game to Hamden with an ace to close out the game.
“This is really great for us,” Augustin said. “We have not made it this far. We worked hard tonight. We are really excited about this.”
Hamden left no doubt who would advance to the second round, going on an 11-2 run to take an 18-6 lead in the fourth game. Included in the run were a handful of aces by Abigail Jang, a kill by Epps and another ace by Nayeli Fernandez Sostre.
“Serving was huge tonight,” Flanders said. “We lost points and gained points from it. We are a great team under pressure. We were very hungry tonight. We knew what was at stake.”
Epps added eight kills for Hamden, while Flanders had 34 assists and Alanah Erazo had 20 digs. Alondra Reyes led New Britain with 11 service points and eight digs, while Jasmia Molina added 14 assists.
“The third game was big for us,” Shugrue said. “You could feel the momentum shifting. These kids are fighters. They kept battling.”
New Britain 18 25 23 11 – 1 (10-11)
Hamden 25 22 25 25 – 3 (14-8)
Jasmine Augustin – 13 kills
Shanikqua Thompson – 11 kills
Maya Epps – 8 kills
Sophia Flanders – 34 assists
Alanah Erazo – 20 digs.
Alondra Reyes – 11 service points and eight digs
Jasmia Molina – 14 assists.