CHESHIRE — It was exactly what you would expect from two perennial Southern Connecticut Conference volleyball powers — a close match.
It went the maximum five games before a raucous crowd as Guilford remained unbeaten in 16 matches with a wild 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 25-14, 24-26, 15-5) over Cheshire at Cheshire High. It’s the best start in the history of the Guilford program.
“I’m going to sound crazy for a second, but I’m glad we went to five games instead of four,” Guilford coach Laura Anastasio said. “It gives us the experience of playing five where it’s win or go home.”
After exchanging wins in the first four games of the match, Guilford dominated the fifth game. After being tied at 3-3, the Indians rattled off the next 10 points to take a 13-3 edge.
Finally, Cheshire hit the ball four times on its side of the net on game point to give the win to Guilford.
“I think it improved our character,” Guilford’s Emma Appleman said. “We realized we can come back and we have to work hard to do that.”
Guilford, which hadn’t lost a game since its opening match against East Lyme back on Sept. 12, narrowly escaped that fate in the first game.
The Indians trailed, 23-21, in the opening game of the night, but a kill by Appleman gave Guilford the lead, 24-23, before Cheshire’s Alenna Zebarth hit the ball into the net while trying to make a kill that would tie the game, giving the Indians the 25-23 victory to take a 1-0 edge in the match.
But Cheshire knotted things up in a back and forth, tight second game, winning three straight points to take a 24-20 lead. After Guilford rallied for a point, Sabrina Zuniga’s serve was long, handing the Rams a 25-21 win that broke the Indians’ long streak.
“We talked about our energy,” Anastasio said. “You could see our energy deflate and it went over to Cheshire. When we play with less energy, we don’t play as well as we can.”
Guilford bounced back very quickly in the third game, racing to a 6-0 lead and then rolled off six straight points with Appleman serving to take a 17-9 edge. The Indians tacked on to the lead, taking a 22-12 lead. Guilford ended up winning the game, 25-14, when Zebarth hit a ricochet off the ceiling out of bounds in front of the Guilford bench.
It seemed as of Guilford would end things for the night in the fourth game when the Indians took a 24-22 lead, but Cheshire fought back to tie it at 24-24. Then Appleman was called for being over the net when she made a kill that would have given Guilford a 25-24 lead. That gave the point to Cheshire, which prevailed in the game on the next point when Appleman spiked a shot into the net.
“We were taking care of the ball, were aggressive and celebrating points,” said Cheshire coach Sue Bavone. “At times, that match was really good, but we came out flat in the fifth game.”
Cheshire fell to 11-3 with the loss.