NEW HAVEN — The snowflake became a snowball and ended as an avalanche.
The Hopkins girls volleyball team’s relentless pursuit of the FAA Tournament Volleyball title was rewarded Friday night as the top-seeded Hilltoppers swept No. 3 King, 25-20, 25-12, 25-19 before a raucous and adoring home crowd.
Hopkins, which defeated King last week to secure the 2019 FAA Volleyball regular-season crown, gave King no hope once again to capture its first FAA Tournament championship.
“This is such an important milestone for us,” said Hopkins senior setter Casey Goldberg. “We won just four matches my freshman year. So to capture the FAA Tournament championship as a senior is incredible. This moment feels so good.”
There was a touch of redemption in Friday’s triumph for Hopkins (16-1). The Hilltoppers lost to King in the 2018 FAA Tournament final. That was King’s fourth consecutive FAA Tournament championship.
“To be able to hold this trophy means so much to our team,” said Hopkins top hitter Nataly Moravec. “Every day since that loss to King in the finals, this was the night we waited for. The fact that King’s program has such a winning resume made us want this even more.”
And leading the way for the Hilltoppers was the 6-foot Moravec. Once again, she was the weapon that King (14-3) could not stop.
Moravec finished with a game-high 17 kills along with two dinks. And when the baton was passed to teammate Rachael Huang, she responded with eight kills and three dinks.
It made for a joyous match for Hopkins setter Goldberg.
“It’s fun because they are so good,” Goldberg said. “It pushes me to make my sets better and better. To see this entire program grow and evolve is awesome. To go from terrible to FAA Tournament champions is super.”
In Game 1, Hopkins led 17-16 when a 6-1 surge made it 23-17 and eventually 25-20 Hilltoppers.
In Game 2, Hopkins led 12-9 when a 9-0 run made it 21-9. Jess Hensel had eight service points while Moravec had four kills in the surge. Hopkins closed it out at 25-12 for a 2-0 edge.
In Game 3, King led 6-2, but a Hopkins’ 9-1 run made it 11-7. King got to 21-17 but the Hilltoppers’ celebrated with their festively-costumed student section at 25-19.
“This result was the same as last week (3-0 sweep),” said King’s veteran coach Tung Tran. “Give Hopkins all the credit. They are so well coached and have great hitters. They are so solid in every phase of the game.”
Both teams will await for possible invitations to the NEPSAC Class B Tournament on Sunday.
The good newes for King is it will ultimately graduate just two senior starters (Ruby Bienen, Catherine King) from its roster.
“Hopefully, this result will make our returnees hungry next year,” Tran said. “Postseason experience is essential for success. You can’t teach that. You have to go through the pain and disappointment to find more hunger for success.”
HOPKINS 3, KING 0
KING 20 12 19—0
HOPKINS 25 25 25—3
Records: King 14-3 overall, Hopkins 16-1 overall.
K—Nicole Salantay 5 kills, 14 digs. Sophia Pigott 29 digs. Norah Shattan 7 assists. Catherine King 13 assists. H—Nataly Moravec 18 kills, 2 dinks. Casey Goldberg 30 assists, Rachael Huang 8 kills, 3 dinks.