EAST HAVEN — When it comes to championships this fall, the Southern Connecticut Conference is painted green and white.
Guilford finished off a historical four-day span Saturday night when its girls’ volleyball team won its first SCC tournament title in 25 years with a wild 3-2 (25-11, 15-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-10) victory over Shelton before a loud crowd at East Haven High School.
“It’s huge,” Guilford coach Laura Anastasio said. “The girls talk every day that we need a new banner in the gym. They wanted it and this is the year it’s going to happen.”
In a four-day span, Guilford became the first school in SCC tournament history to capture the boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, field hockey and girls’ volleyball crowns. Add in the Indians’ girls’ cross country championship and Guilford has five SCC trophies this fall, also a league record.
“That’s awesome,” Anastasio said. “What’s nice is that a lot of our girls went to the soccer games. I know a lot of the soccer and field hockey people were here tonight. There’s a lot of support for each other.”
Guilford (20-3) clinched the match on consecutive kills by Sabrina Zuniga. On match point from the middle, she blasted a kill that went off the hands of Shelton’s Elizabeth Casinelli and fell to the floor.
“I wanted to end it and get the ball down to win the championship for our school,” Zuniga said.
The fifth game was back and forth with neither team taking more than a one-point lead until Guilford won the final five points of the match. With the Indians ahead, 12-10, SCC Tournament Most Outstanding Player Emma Appleman blasted a huge kill to make it 13-10.
“There’s such a big difference between 12-11 and 13-10,” Appleman said. “That’s when I started to believe it. It’s such an emotional game, I think it came out of me.”
It was the first time in four years that the SCC final has gone to a fifth and deciding game.
Guilford led the whole way in the opening game of the match and closed it out when Emily Brouder blasted a cross court kill down the left side of the court in front of the Shelton bench.
“I think we got too comfortable and Shelton is such as great team,” Appleman said.
Things reversed dramatically in the second game as Shelton took control early in the game and won it when Guilford’s Appleman was whistled for a mishit the ball on the final point.
“We’ve dominated teams, 25-8, and gone and lost the next one, 25-8,” Shelton coach LeAnne Bianchine said. “So I told them to go dominate the next game.”
Shelton (18-4) also took the third game, 25-22, in controversial fashion when Casinelli’s cross court kill from the right side was ruled to hit the floor just in bounds. After Guilford questioned the call, the referees huddled before the call was held up. The Gaels went on a 9-2 run to end the game.
“We knew Shelton would play like they always do,” Anastasio said. “Our service got spotty and theirs was good.”
Guilford bounced right back to take the fourth game as the Indians led the game for all but one point. Shelton made a furious rally at the end of the game, but Guilford knotted the match when Brouder’s kill from the middle went off the outstretched hands of Jessica Jayaker.
“Guilford is a solid team and they had a fantastic season,” Bianchine said. “It was a great competitive match and I’m very proud of my girls for getting here.”