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  • Greg Lederer

Cheshire Boys' Volleyball Defends SCC Crown

On Friday, CHS boys' volleyball won their second straight SCC title. Photo by Greg Lederer.

In receiving SCC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, volleyball player Connor Hayes (right) joined his older brother Colby (left) as a recipient. Colby earned the honor back in 2019. Photo by Greg Lederer.

by Greg Lederer

Cheshire Sports Media

For the Cheshire High School boys’ volleyball program, winning the Southern Connecticut Conference Tournament is a goal every year. On Friday, the Rams hoisted the crown again on their home floor.

Top-seeded CHS (19-3) picked up their 11th straight victory, 3-1 (27-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-18), over Shelton (second seed, 13-8), in the final. Along with defending their crown, Cheshire earned their third title in the last four seasons.

“It is a championship, so there is still mental pressure,” stated Head Coach Sue Bavone. “You still have to perform, so it is a good segue into the state tournament.” 

Senior Connor Hayes (11 kills, four blocks, two aces, two digs, assist) was named SCC Tournament Most Outstanding Player. On Cheshire’s 2019 title team, his older brother Colby received the same honor as a senior co-captain.

“It feels good to follow in my brother’s footsteps,” said Hayes, a tri-captain with senior Will Allen and junior Matti Lilback. “We put so much work in all season and just to finally make it here is the best feeling in the world.”

Sophomore setter Bradley Fang distributed a personal-high 44 assists against Shelton, adding seven digs and an ace. Allen also tallied seven digs, along with posting 11 kills, an ace, and a block.

Lilback finished as the CHS kill leader (12) and chipped in an ace and a dig. Junior Jacob D’Addona secured nine kills, four digs, an ace, an assist, and a block, while classmate Gordon Johns contributed seven kills, five digs, an assist, and a block.

Junior Jacob Tierney additionally recorded seven digs.

Allen felt that defending the SCC crown was a collective effort.

“It feels great,” stated Allen. “I owe it to everyone that’s around me, the other five players, for all my years here, the past few years. I couldn’t have done it alone. They’ve helped me so much. There my rock. I love this team and I love this program.”

CHS went 3-0 in the season series against Shelton, but the final match was a battle from start to finish. In game one, CHS used consecutive kills from Lilback, Johns, and Hayes to take a 17-9 lead, however, Shelton made a late push to earn game points at 24-23 and 25-24.

In the clutch, Hayes erased both of those points with kills and then he served out the last two points of the set. Shelton was whistled for a carry on game point.

“I felt that a little doubt crept in at the end of the first set,” recalled Hayes. “I knew that I had to lock in and push through for our team at the end of that first set.”

Game two was similarly tight. CHS rallied to tie the score at 21-21 and 23-23, however, the Gaels claimed the final two points to tie the match.

“I think what we did, which was uncharacteristic of us, was we gave up a little bit more runs than we normally do,” explained Bavone. “We normally stop the runs at a point or two, but this time, we gave up longer stretches of runs, which kind of hurt us.”

Cheshire bounced back by jumping out to a 4-0 lead in game three. CHS extended their lead to 15-8, but once again, Shelton dug deep and cut the deficit to 20-19.

“I do think that Shelton played outstanding defense,” stated Bavone. “Their defense was amazing. I felt that anywhere we hit, there was a person there. We definitely had a hard time finding the floor tonight.”

With the fourth game hanging in the balance, the Gaels missed a key serve and Cheshire responded by winning four of the final five points on the service of D’Addona. In that spurt, Lilback had two kills, the second coming on game point.

“I think it (wrestling away the match) took us to just finally settle down and just realize that we beat them (Shelton) twice already this season,” explained Hayes. “We’re the better team and we just had to calm our nerves down. I think that is what won us this game. We finally just calmed down.”

The Rams carried their momentum into the fourth set in which they built a 6-1 advantage. After the Gaels pulled to within 8-7, Cheshire went on a 5-0 run capped by a kill from D’Addona.

“I think it was like a back-and-forth momentum game,” reflected Allen. “It was just about who could kill the run first. A couple times, they were going on runs against us, but it was just about who could stop the other side.”

In securing match point at 24-17, CHS missed a serve, but, Shelton missed the ensuing serve to clinch the title for the Rams.

Before the match, Allen (Player of the Year) and Bavone (Coach of the Year) were presented with SCC awards.

“It means a lot,” said Allen, of his honor. “I’ve been playing since freshman year. I randomly picked up this sport (volleyball). I fell in love with it. I’ve met a lot of great guys along the way. Everyone I’ve met in this program has shaped me into getting and striving to get this (Player of the Year) and I’m happy that I got it. It has been four years of work, I think.”

Allen, Hayes, and Lilback made the SCC First Team this year. D’Addona and Fang were selected to the second team.

The Rams are now seeking their first state title since winning back-to-back Class L crowns in 2011-12. As the third seed in Class M, Cheshire hosts SMSA/Buckeley (14th seed, 8-12) in the first round on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

CHS reached the finals last spring, but fell 3-0 to Masuk.

“This (conference crown) is a big first step in the process of getting to winning a title at the end,” said Allen. “Everything is motivation. All four years, this (SCC Player of the Year), everything, losing, every game I’ve lost, it’s all motivation coming for this final.”

In the first set of the SCC final, volleyball player Connor Hayes erased two game points with kills. He also served the final two points of the game.

Volleyball player Will Allen recorded 11 kills against Shelton.

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