WATERBURY — SCC Player of the Year Colby Hayes continued his torrid season by pounding a match-high 15 kills as the No. 2 Cheshire volleyball team advanced to the Class M state championship game with a 3-0 semifinal sweep of No. 6 Farmington on Tuesday night at Kennedy High School.
The Rams won by game scores of 25-17, 25-14 and 25-20 and move on to play No. 1 Newington in Thursday’s 7 p.m final at Shelton.
The Rams, the SCC Tournament champions, enter the final at 20-4 and are winners of 12 in a row. Two of their four losses were to Newington in the regular season.
Cheshire had twice beaten Farmington 3-2 in the regular campaign and made it 3-for-3 in more convincing fashion on Tuesday.
“Obviously, I’m thrilled for the team,” Cheshire coach Sue Bavone said. “I think the semifinals is the toughest match to win. There’s so much pressure on it to get to that final game.
“I’m proud of the way these kids came out. They came out aggressive and loud and stayed up througout the whole match. There’s no quit in this team ever and I’m glad they were able to take control and keep it for as long as they did.”
Cheshire went back and forth through the first 25 points of Game 1 with Farmington holding a 13-11 advantage. Cheshire finished Game 1 on a 14-4 run. Hayes was the star with six kills and two blocks in the opening set. Connor Guilford (6 kills, 3 blocks) and Alexander Irizarry (5 kills, 2 blocks, 2 assists) both had a pair of kills and a block for Cheshire in the first set.
“A light bulb just clicked midway through that first game and we just came together,” Hayes said. “We were all mentally focused to perform well together.”
Toma Constantinescu was the closer for Cheshire. The senior served the final five points as Cheshire finished the set on a 6-0 run.
That momentum carried over into Game 2 as the Rams blitzed out to a 13-2 advantage behind strong serving from Constantinescu, Thomas Bonitz and Hayes. Bonitz came through with three of aces. Guilford had a stretch of three straight points with a block and two kills. Cheshire added an 8-0 run later in the set to make quick work of Farmington (15-7).
“Right from the start our energy was great,” Godfrey said. “We were talking and our communication was great on the court. I love all of these players on the team; it’s just an awesome feeling.”
Cheshire used an 8-1 run early in the third set to go up 13-8 and never looked back. Godfrey (6 kills, 5 digs, 2 aces) served four straight successful points, including an ace. Berkley Fang (5 digs) also chipped in with an ace as the Rams rolled to their third-ever state final appearance after winning state crowns in 2011 and 2012.
Cheshire setter Luke Pinciaro finished with 30 assists.
“We really brought the energy from start to finish,” Hayes said. “We wanted to win this game for us and for Cheshire.”
Now Cheshire turns its attention to Newington. One thing to bear in mind: The Rams are far healthier than they were two months ago.
“The first half of the season we had so many injuries,” Bavone said. “We had three knee injuries and a broken arm. We’ve had so many things that we’ve had to overcome and we’ve thrown guys in and they’ve gotten it done. They are just so resiliant. They didn’t freak out when someone went down with an injury.
“Right now, we are at full strength, which is good. There’s been a lot of adversity this season from a health standpoint. I kept thinking from the beginning of the year that we had the pieces to do this. I’m glad what we thought was true and they are actually getting it done.”