Joel Barlow claims Class L volleyball crown over Bristol Central, finishes undefeated

EAST HAVEN – At the final team meeting following last year’s volleyball season, the Joel Barlow players set some lofty goals for the future.

The mission has now been accomplished.

Barlow completed an undefeated season and won its second state championship with a 3-0 sweep of Bristol Central in the CIAC Class L final Saturday at East Haven.

“This is what we’ve been working for the entire season,” said Barlow senior setter Emmy Asplund, who was named the tournament MVP. “The last meeting as a team last year, we all came together and said we want, we want to go undefeated and we want to win states. That’s exactly what we came here to do today. I’m so happy we made it happen and I’m so happy we did it together.”

Barlow (24-0), which was making its eighth appearance in the state finals, had lost six straight times before breaking through for the title with a five-set win over Woodstock Academy in 2018.

This year, they went undefeated and lost just five sets, four of which came in the first four games of the season.

The final was an emotional one for Barlow coach Carol Conti-Asplund, whose daughter Emmy, as well as the six other seniors on the roster, are graduating.

“This was a really fun season,” Conti-Asplund said. “I’ve known a lot of these girls since they were little, six and seven years old. They tried basketball together, they tried other sports together and we were lucky enough that they chose to play volleyball. It’s emotional for me, obviously because my daughter’s on the team and these are her good friends since childhood.”

Bristol Central (19-8) was making its first state finals appearance after winning four straight playoff games, including two via shutout.

Barlow came out flying and stormed to a 25-13 first-set win, but the next two frames were battles, with the Falcons eventually pulling out wins of 25-20 and 25-23.

“I think the first game was some jitters,” Bristol Central coach Lance Pepper said. “Never being on this stage before, a phenomenal environment, and the crowd was really into it. In the second game we settled down, and in the third game we did a great job fighting back. It’s a testament to our kids and how hard they’ve worked.”

The Rams were trailing 19-12 in the third frame when they caught fire and went on an 11-2 run to take a 23-21 lead.

Two points away from a fourth set, however, the Falcons responded and won the final four points to seal the victory.

“It was mostly just to trust ourselves,” Barlow senior Kat Czerkawski said of that moment. “We knew that we have what it takes to get back in it.”

And when the final point hit the floor?

“My mind went blank,” Czerkawski said. “I was so unbelievably happy and I’m so proud of this team. Our team has worked so hard for everything and it’s really great to see it all come together.”


Emmy Asplund, Joel Barlow: The senior setter was a steady force for the Falcons, collecting 34 assists, seven kills and 13 digs to earn MVP honors. She was also the MVP of the SWC final against Newtown.


“We played with a lot of guts. I told them when you go into these big games, you have to play with guts, you can’t play scared. We talked about that a lot all year and they played with guts today.” – Joel Barlow coach Carol Conti-Asplund


Bristol Central 13 20 23 - 0

Joel Barlow 25 25 25 - 3

Bristol Central: Brooke Valentino 4 kills,12 digs; Samantha Sklenka 17 digs; Alexandra Rivera 24 assists, 13 digs; Olivia Clingan 8 kills, 2 blocks; Lily Kirk 8 kills, 3 aces; Maddie Lodovico 7 kills, 11 digs.

Joel Barlow: Emmy Asplund 34 assists, 7 kills, 13 digs, 1 ace; Kat Czerkawski 12 kills, 13 digs; Libby Grob 7 kills, 2 aces; Sarah Mauro 9 digs; Mackenzie Sickinge4 4 blocks; Elyssa Kalamaras 3 blocks.

Records: Bristol Central 19-8, Joel Barlow 24-0.