Class LL Volleyball: Amity upsets Cheshire, reaches final

NAUGATUCK — The message was simple. Play every point like it was the last, and play with energy. The Amity Spartans certainly followed suit.

Playing an inspired game from the opening serve and riding a complete team effort, fifth-seeded Amity upset top-seeded and previously undefeated Cheshire 25-14, 25-19, 25-20 in the Class LL semifinals at Naugatuck High School Wednesday evening.

With the win, Amity will face sixth-seeded Greenwich, a 3-1 upset winner over second-seeded Southington, in the Class LL finals Saturday at East Haven High at a time to be determined. Amity will be looking for its first state title since winning in 2003.

“I just said to them before the game, no matter what happens, they can’t take away your energy,” Amity coach Seth Davis said. “We had to bring it every point. If we did that, we would have a good chance.”

Not only did the Spartans (19-4) have a chance to defeat the Rams for the first time in three tries this season, they controlled the match after winning just one game combined between the two teams in the regular season. Behind junior Abigail Harbinson’s 15 kills, five digs, and two blocks, the Spartans never let Cheshire get on track.

“We came in with a really strong mindset,” Harbinson said. “We did not want to go home. We wanted to continue the season. We want to ride this out on a high note.”

For the Rams (23-1), they played the contest without injured starters Lindsey Abramson and Meagan Clyne. To add insult to injury, the Rams never got going in their serving or passing games.

“We were hurt at the net,” Cheshire coach Sue Bavone said. “At this time of the year, with injuries to two starters, it is tough to get through. We did not serve like we are capable of, and we did not pass like we are capable of. When you can’t serve and you can’t pass, you can’t run the offense. That is not an excuse. We should have been able to serve and play tougher. I hope it is something they can learn from. They can think about it for a year.”

After taking the first two games in the match, Amity battled to win the final game behind the play of Harbinson. Kills by the junior gave Amity leads of 19-14 and 23-20, before she closed out the match in style.

“She knows where to put the ball,” Davis said of Harbinson. “She plays with her head and with her heart. That’s tough to beat.”

Amity, which played without senior Dani Nordyk, used a team effort from the start. Sophomore Lauren Campos stepped in with six kills, junior Olivia Pisano added five service points and four digs, while senior setter Jaiden Williams had 34 assists and three digs.

Kills by Harbinson had Amity on top 13-7 and 17-9 in the opening game, before Mckenzie Mcdermott finished the game with an ace.

With the second game in favor of Cheshire 17-15 after a dink by Mia Juodaitis, the Spartans went on an 8-0 run to take a 23-17 advantage. Pisano had an ace, Harbinson added two kills and a block, and Cheshire made a pair of errors to keep Amity’s run going.

“The key was our defense,” Williams said. “Our defense played especially well tonight. Our hitters stepped up and made plays. It was a great effort.”

Ariana Perlini led Cheshire with seven kills, four digs, and two aces. Elena Piran added seven digs, six kills, and two blocks, while Nicole Purtill had seven digs.

“We could not transition our offense from our defense,” Bavone said. “We were target practice out there tonight. I was not thrilled with our demeanor.”