EAST HAVEN — History was made at East Haven High School Saturday night. And Greenwich High School, the girls volleyball team that hasn’t experienced a loss in nearly two months, while not playing it its home gym most of the time, made it.
The Cardinals ended their season Saturday with their 20th straight victory and their 20th triumph is one they will always remember.
Sixth-seeded Greenwich became the first team in program history to win two titles in one season after it defeated fifth-seeded Amity, 3-1, in the championship match of the CIAC Class LL Tournament at East Haven.
The 25-18, 26-28, 25-6, 25-18 win gave Greenwich its first Class LL title since 2010 and marked the first time a Cardinals volleyball team won both the state and FCIAC title in the same season. Greenwich swept St. Joseph for the FCIAC championship earlier this month.
Captained by seniors Tara Ford, Nicole Wood and Maggy Egan, the Cardinals finished their historic campaign with a sparkling record of 24-4 under coach Steve Lapham. Wood was named the Class LL Tournament’s MVP.
“Winning both FCIACs and states is remarkable,” Wood said. “All season, when we faced adversity we kept pushing back and we just kept telling ourselves to believe in each other. That and giving all the effort we could is what got us here.”
Ford registered 19 kills, eight digs and two blocks, Egan posted 13 kills, 12 digs and three aces and Wood had 40 assists, 14 digs and three aces to help propel Greenwich. Due to the fact that their gymnasium was renovated, GHS played all of its home matches during the regular season at Eastern Middle School and mostly practiced there as well — making its accomplishments this season all the more impressive.
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“We took buses to middle schools and tried to get courts wherever we can this season,” Steve Lapham said. “But through it all, the girls practiced hard each day and worked hard the whole season. Everybody picked each other up the entire season. They’re better people than they are volleyball players.”
Amity, which was seeking its 11th state championship and was making its first appearance in the finals since 2003, concluded its season at 19-5.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these girls,” Amity coach Seth Davis said. “They’ve worked harder than I’ve ever seen a team work.”
With the match tied at 1-1, Greenwich seized a 2-1 advantage by gaining the momentum early in the third game. Senior Erika Hauschild served the Cardinals to a 5-0 lead and the Cardinals advantage kept growing as the set progressed. Greenwich exhibited strong passing, solid play at the net and effective defensive play on its way to the third-set win.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to be a part of,” Ford said. “Once we gained our confidence as the season went on and we began executing up to our potential, we knew we had it all the way — we knew we could win a state title. That was our goal for the season.”
Amity took a 3-0 lead in the first set, but Greenwich rallied to go ahead, 13-9. Kills by Ford gave the Cardinals advantages of 5-4 and 8-7, then senior Nicole Wood’s tip a later on put GHS up 10-7. Ford notched another kill and Hauschild put one down, making it 12-8.
The Spartans closed to within 17-15 when junior Madeline Adzigian registered a kill, but the Cardinals pulled away, winning eight of the next 11 points to close out the set.
“Definitely our serving and serve receive helped us gain the momentum,” Egan said. “It feels amazing to win FCIAC and state titles the same year — the first Greenwich team to do that.”
The second set saw Amity seize a quick 4-0 edge, causing GHS coach Steve Lapham to call a timeout. The lead grew to 7-0 behind an ace from senior Mckenzie McDermott, before the Cards earned a side-out. Greenwich cut Amity’s lead to 11-9 when Egan set Ford up for a kill. Junior Carolina Lew served an ace for GHS, pulling her team to within 12-11.
But the Spartans gained some separation, opening a 16-11 lead behind strong serving from Adzigian. Trailing 17-11, Greenwich reeled off six straight points, one of which was an Egan kill to knot the score at 17-17, drawing an Amity timeout.
The back-and-forth set saw the Cardinals take a 25-24 lead on junior Amelia Bartlett’s ace, but the Spartans finished strong to tie the match at 1-1. Sparking the Spartans during the set was junior co-captain Abigail Harbinson. However, Amity did play portions of the second and third set without the services Harbinson, who was experiencing back spasms.
“She played through it, she’s a competitor,” Davis said.
Said Amity senior captain Brooke Matyasovsky: “Us seniors, worked four years to get to this point. This was our goal and we got here.”
Since dropping a 3-2 decision to St. Joseph on Sept. 27, Greenwich won its final 20 matches, only one of which went to five sets, in what was truly a historic season for its program.
“I knew as soon as we started the winning streak that we had it in us to win FCIACs and states,” said De Jesus, also a star gymnast. “We practiced so hard day in and day out and went through some difficulties. But we got through it as a team and did a great job of fighting through adversity.”
“This was a great team that exceeded all expectations,” Lapham added. “What a season.”