STAMFORD—How do you win a championship?
With poise and killer instinct. By having the emotional dagger ready and unleashing it in all the big moments.
With enough talented players that form a cohesive unit and hit opponents like a fist.
By deciding that their home gym is their house and no opponent can change that karma no matter how many students travel to the site.
A marvelous tour de force Friday became the King School girls volleyball program’s fourth straight Fairchester Athletic Association title as the Vikings conquered Sacred Heart Greenwich, 25-12, 27-25, 26-24.
“This is so special,” said King senior tri-captain Ali Wheeler as she held the 2017 FAA Championship trophy in her hands. “To do this in our senior year means so much. To finish this Fairchester season so strong with a title is so great. I’m so happy.”
No. 1 seed King (16-1 overall) will be looking for a ‘One for the thumb.’ fifth consecutive FAA title in 2018.
But the immediate task facing the Vikings will be next week’s NEPSAC Class C Tournament. King figures to be the No. 1 seed in that eight-team bracket. Pairings to be announced Sunday.
KING’S CHAMPIONSHIP METTLE
King set a tone against a nervous serving Sacred Heart in Game 1. With junior Anne Michalski serving, the Vikings fashioned an 11-0 run for 14-3. A 5-0 surge made it 19-6 on its way to a 25-12 win.
“Winning the first game. That was our foundation,” said King senior tri-captain Stephanie Costabile. “It showed how badly we wanted this title.”
Sacred Heart — which lost in five games to King early in the regular season on Sept. 26 — made its stand in Game 2.
King used a 9-2 surge for a 19-13 edge. But Sacred Heart — with senior co-captain Eleanor McKenney serving — answered with a 9-1 run to grab a 22-20 lead.
The teams traded fighting off game points before King won 27-25 for a 2-0 edge.
“Whenever they are behind, they stay positive. They keep playing. They keep swinging,” said Sacred Heart senior co-captain McKenney. “I admire that quality in King.”
Game 3 saw Sacred Heart turn a 19-14 deficit into a 19-19 tie. With SHG up 24-23, King used an Ava Robinowitz kill and two Costabile aces to finish the job and kick off a grand celebration.
GREAT SEASON FOR SACRED HEART
Although tears were flowing, the Tigers have a proud 13-8 season to embrace.
“I’m so proud of my teammates. Our group had so much growth this season,” McKenney said. “I wish the ending could be different. But I’m so proud of our accomplishments.”
This season should continue with a berth in next week’s NEPSAC Class A Tournament.
“The girls were so resilient. They overcame obstacles. They maintained their composure,” said Sacred Heart coach Beth Wilson-Jordan. “I’m incredibly proud of their teamwork exhibiting so much fight and so much heart.”
STILL WORK TO DO FOR KING
King did a good job of celebrating Friday’s FAA championship four-peat before looking ahead to the next week’s challenge of the NEPSAC Class C Tourney.
“Sacred Heart is such a good program. Today played like a true championship match. We’re glad to get the win,” said King’s veteran coach Tung Tran. “A full season matures a group and this team developed and the maturity showed today. It is great to have two seniors (Kelly Conheeney, Stephanie Costabile) who can now say they never lost a FAA postseason match in their careers.”
The best part was winning in the high decibel atmosphere of the King gymnasium.
“This is our home. We have a comfortable feeling here,” King coach Tran said. “We worked all season to get this (No. 1 seed) home advantage. It’s always nice to win championships at home.”
FAA CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
KING 3, SACRED HEART GREENWICH 0
SACRED HEART 12 25 24—0
KING 25 27 26—3
Records: Sacred Heart Greenwich 13-8 overall; King 16-1 overall.
Highlights: SHG—Eleanor McKenney 10 kills, 1 block, 19 digs, 1 ace. Laura Holland 11 kills, 5 blocks. Natalia Pazos 21 assists, 12 digs. Magdalena Dutkowska 4 kills. K—Christine Nelli 15 kills, 9 digs. Anne Michalski 7 kills, 1 block, 23 digs, 15 service points, 4 aces. Kelly Conheeney 7 kills, 1 block, 27 digs, 7 service points. Ali Wheeler 5 kills, 5 blocks, 18 assists. Ava Robinowitz 8 kills, 3 blocks, 18 assists, 4 digs. Stephanie Costabile 9 service points, 35 digs.