CROMWELL >> Longtime Morgan volleyball coach Joe Grippo laughed when he was asked if winning another Shoreline Conference volleyball championship ever gets old.
“Winning does not get old,” said Grippo, who has won over 500 career matches. “People have said I’m more relaxed this year and that’s because I know I’ve got a group of kids that are going to battle like heck to the last point.”
The top-seeded Huskies captured their 22nd consecutive league crown – and 25th overall – with a 25-20, 25-23 and 25-16 sweep against No. 3 East Hampton in the Shoreline tournament finals Saturday night at Cromwell High. Morgan’s epic championship run began in 1992.
“It is an albatross around our neck because every team that gets to this game doesn’t want to be the team that ended the streak,” said Grippo, who will be inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Volleyball Hall of Fame on Nov. 26. “So there is a little bit of added pressure here and the expectations of the volleyball program in this school are off the charts. But this group of kids has been resilient and tough all year long. I’m real proud of them.”
Morgan senior setter Lily Dawson, the Shoreline Player of the Year, was sensational, finishing with 41 assists.
“I’m so happy the streak continues but I love winning no matter what,” said Dawson. “It’s not only about keeping the streak going but also just about winning because the feeling never goes away.”
Said Grippo: “Lily is the kid who is our engine and sets the tempo on the floor. She’s just incredible. She’s got a mindset on her as tough as (former Husky) Lisa Barbaro.”
Junior outside hitter Jen Dawson powered the Huskies with 25 kills, 20 digs and three aces, Junior hitter Kait Anderson had 16 kills, while Ashlyn Chidsey (18 digs), Sami Ashton, Emily Popp and Ciera Harris spearheaded Morgan’s trademark defensive effort.
“(Morgan’s) relentless,” said East Hampton coach John Post. “Jen Dawson and Anderson, that’s a lot to deal with for any team. They just kept coming. They were able to end those long points and that made it tough for us.”
The Bellringers (15-6) were led by Dakota Reed (20 assists), Sarah Massie (5 kills, 4 blocks). Katy Beem (22 digs), and Grace Fales (19 digs).
East Hampton, which shared the league title with Morgan a year ago when Hurricane Sandy forced the finals to be cancelled, had things all knotted up late in the first two games – 18-18 in game one, and 22-22 in game two – before the Huskies pulled away at the end.
Morgan (22-0) grabbed leads of 8-2 and 15-4 in game three and never looked back.
“A couple of points go either way in the first two games and it could have been a different match,” Post said. “With a team that is that good and has been that successful you have to win one and then keep pushing and fighting.”
Morgan is the top seed in the upcoming Class S tournament. The Huskies will look to dethrone seven-time defending champion Coventry, which is seeded No. 4.
“Whoever is going into the state tournament has to be thinking you have to take out Coventry and if we do it for them, more power to us,” said Grippo, who has guided the Huskies to 11 Class S state titles, the last in 2005.
Said Lily Dawson: “We’re hoping this is our year. Coventry is in our bracket. I think if we play the way we are capable of playing we definitely have a shot.”