CHESHIRE — The No. 2 Cheshire boys volleyball team looked unstoppable in a 3-0 sweep of No. 6 Farmington on Tuesday evening in the Class M semifinals at Waterbury’s Kennedy High School.
The Rams showed full confidence and are now heading into their final and biggest game of the season on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Shelton High School..
The opponent? Top-seeded and two-time defending Class M champion Newington.
The Indians (23-3), runners-up in the Central Conneticut Conference to Southington, defeated SCC champion Cheshire (20-4) twice during the regular season. Both matches were 3-1.
Those head-to-head meetings came early, on March 30 and April 8. At that time, the Rams were hamstrung by several injuries and were in the midst of a 2-3 start.
Since a 3-2 defeat to Joel Barlow on April 12, Cheshire has gone 18-1, won the SCC and rides a 12-match winning streak into the finals. The only blemish in the last 19 matches was a 3-1 setback to Newtown on May 1.
“We just have to go and play and leave nothing on the table,” Cheshire coach Sue Bavone said. “(The semifinal game) is the most stressful game for me and once you get to the final, you just play. They know what’s at stake. They know what they are playing for. I don’t have to motivate them.
“I’m just really happy for them,” the veteran coach added. “They have a good chance. They have a good chance to beat anyone. When they play like they play tonight, they are a tough out”
SCC Player of the Year and SCC Tournament MVP Colby Hayes leads Cheshire with 264 kills and 53 blocks on the season. Hayes is also second on the team with 74 digs.
Aidan Godfrey, a 6-foot-8 junior, has 213 kills. Senior Connor Guilford has 123.
Senior libero Berkley Fang paces the team with 39 aces and 77 digs. Senior setter Luke Pinciaro has dished out 582 assists.
“I knew looking at our team we had all of the tools,” Godfrey said. “We lost some early games against Newington and were .500 early on in the season. I never got down. We have the talent, we have the coaching and we have the players.
“Yeah. I always thought we had a shot. There hasn’t been a game that we have gone into this year where we felt we didn’t have a shot.”
All the same, Newington will be the favorite. The Indians enter Thursday night’s final having won five of the last seven Class M state titles under coach Curt Burns, including the last two.
LIke Cheshire, Newington rolled through the semis with a 3-0 sweep of No. 4 Wethersfield. Game scores were 25-20, 25-18 and 25-23.
Senior Louis Egbuna leads Newington’s offense with a team-high 262 kills. He is followed by Teddy Fravel (215 kills, 65 blocks), Jacob Baclawski (198 kills, 26 aces) and top middle hitter Mason Romano (171 kills, 52 blocks).
Romano, who is 6-foot-5, did not play against Wethersfield with a broken foot.
Collin Liedke is Newington’s top defender with 249 digs. Setter Leonel Caceres has 753 assists.
“Yes, we absolutely wanted another shot at them,” Hayes said. “They beat us both times 3-1 and both times we played them we weren’t at full strength. We were missing (Thomas) Bonitz, Alex (Irizarry) and Connor (Guilford) those games. We also played them very early in the season.”
This is Cheshire’s third appearance in the boys volleyball state finals. The Rams won back-to-back Class L crowns in 2011 and 2012.
“It’s awesome,” Godfrey said. “I love all of these players and to go through this moment with the entire team is awesome. We are all friends on and off the court. We have great chemistry and great coaches. We also have the best fans in the state that come out and support us every game.”
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