The atmosphere was highly-charged, as expected, when coach Julie Johnson’s Foran High girls volleyball team played host to coach Sue Bavone’s Cheshire High Rams in the season opener for both squads in the Edna Fraser Gymnasium on Sept. 12.
The energy level was present throughout for the two Southern Connecticut Conference powerhouses, with Cheshire finishing Foran off 3-0 (25-15, 25-14, 25-18).
What was lacking was the execution in both the service and serve-receive by both teams.
“It is to be expected,” Bavone said of the lack of crispness. “Our team is entirely new except for Amanda [Palladino]. Our serving was dominant for much of the first game. We lost our rhythm, but finished the second game well.”
Johnson was far more severe in her assessment.
“It’s a good match to evaluate, an eye-opener,” she said. “Cheshire is a good team, but we still have to get our serve in. We don’t have another match for another week [home to Shelton tonight
Foran took an 11-7 record into the Class M state tournament a year ago, won two matches, before being ousted by Lauralton Hall (3-1) in the quarterfinals.
Cheshire was seeded second in Class LL with an 18-0 mark and advanced to the semifinals before it lost to Newtown High (3-0).
Fallon Bevino opened the match with a winning spike before the Rams took an 11-3 lead on a seven-point run on their second time at the stripe.
Abby Amann had a fine dig here that led to Rebekah DeRosa setting Bevino for a sideout.
Rebekah DeRosa drew three points back, including two aces, but the first of four service errors by the Lions short-circuited any long term rally.
Bryzy Gonski had an ace, and with Cheshire leading 20-10 her pass found DeRosa, who set up Dani Kemp for a kill.
Kemp had consecutive aces at 21-12, before service errors by both teams slowed the game and Cheshire won a 25-15 decision.
The Rams opened game two with four straight points from Kathleen Hastie and closed it with Becca Ligi’s eight straight winners from the stripe.
Kaylee Ciolino and Amy Lopez came in and showed good footwork in the back row for the Lions, who dropped three of those eight points after long rallies.
“Some of it was jitters, other times it was being slow to react to the ball,” Johnson said. “We’re playing people in spots they never played before.”
Janae Owens was at her best for Foran from the front row in game three, as the sophomore made numerous blocks and many saves off the net.
DeRosa served Foran to its first lead in the match since Bevino’s opening kill with an ace to make it 4-3 in game three.
Jess Harkness later put two points together in serve and Foran was in front 11-9 after one rotation.
At 15-all, Amann twice made the passes that resulted in Bevino getting on top of DeRosa’s sets, only to have the Cheshire backline dig the ball up.
It was 17-15 Rams when Bevino’s kill earned a side out.
Gonski served a pair of winners, with fine plays from Harkness and DeRosa.
But at 18-all, Cheshire ran off the final seven points.
“We have a lot of height on this team,” Johnson said. “We had to change the lineup six times last season before we had everyone where they could work the best. We’ll be fine.”