In a battle between two teams looking for their first girls state volleyball title in school history, Avon prevailed over Guilford on Saturday morning in the Class L championship at East Haven High.
Tournament Most Valuable player Emily Dempsey led the charge for the second-seeded Falcons, who soared to the 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-16) triumph.
“We always kind of felt this could’ve been the year for it,” Avon head coach Curt Burns said. “We really focused on getting here from day one… Once we got here, we said let’s close it out.”
Dempsey notched 16 kills and nine digs for Avon, which finished its championship season at 23-2 overall.
The potential jitters associated with reaching a title game for the first time eluded Avon, which executed with a sharp methodicalness throughout the contest.
“They were really efficient in the beginning,” Guilford head coach Laura Anastasio said. “They didn’t have any awesome blocks or aces, they just got the job done. They dug us well and had stellar defense.”
The Falcons collectively tallied up their readiness to preparation, going back to the preseason and continuing on through game days and weekends this fall.
“We get up every Saturday morning and we go hard,” Dempsey said. “That’s what we did today… It was our mindset. We all wanted it.”
The Falcons did not trail in the first or second games. Those wire-to-wire advantages helped Avon build even more belief.
“It’s good for your confidence,” Burns said. “You just know that you can get it done.”
Avon then fell behind 6-4 in the decisive third set. Following a timeout, the Falcons ripped off a 20-7 run to set up match point.
“They had that little spurt in the early part of the third set and again later,” Burns said. “We got through those couple of bumps and we were fine.”
Guilford, the No. 5 seed, fended off three consecutive match points, before Avon clinched its first-ever girls volleyball title.
“They hit it at the right time, they didn’t have a lot of errors,” Anastasio said. “We played good but not our best. But I think that’s because of what Avon was doing.”
Part of the difficulty for Guilford was combating the Falcons’ height up front, led by Dempsey, Abigail St. Onge, Eliza Jones and Sarah Jacobs.
That helped to neutralize the hard-hitting Emma Appleman (15 kills) of Guilford on the outside.
“Their height alone is something we haven’t seen all year,” Anastasio said. “They were just able to get us out of sorts.”
On the title-clinching point, St. Onje and Jacobs converged on the right side of the net to stuff a Guilford return.
“You’ve just got to keep pushing and play your game,” Dempsey said.
With their first-ever championship, the Falcons laid the groundwork for a foundation of future success. It started in late August prepping to play a championship game on Saturday in November.
“We really prepared for this all during the season,” Burns said. “We didn’t want to be in a culture shock when we got here on Saturday morning… It was just another Saturday morning.”
One the Avon squad, and their exuberant cadre of traveling fans, will not soon forget.
“It’s an amazing way to go out,” Dempsey said.
Records: Guilford (23-4); Avon (23-2).