South Windsor Volleyball Earns First State Title With Sweep of Barlow

By Danny Atkinson

WATERBURY-The South Windsor High School boys’ volleyball team knew that to win the Class M Tournament championship match against Joel Barlow (Redding), it would have to play at a high level from the opening serve and avoid losing the first set. By doing so and displaying solid teamwork and execution, the Bobcats earned a historical milestone for both the team and program.

South Windsor (20-4) swept Joel Barlow in three sets (25-20, 25-22, 25-18) in the CIAC Class M boys volleyball tournament state championship at Kennedy High. It was the Bobcats’ first CIAC volleyball championship.

“This is a very special accomplishment, you can’t beat the first time for anything,” head coach Peter Maneggia said.”These are great kids who work hard and get along, and that’s what you want as a coach.”

The first and second sets were tightly contested between the Bobcats and Falcons (18-4), with South Windsor going on late runs to seal them, before dominating the final one.

“In practice yesterday, we said that we have to come out and avoid being sluggish and go after every ball. We maintained that mentality throughout,” senior setter Scott Stonoha said. He recorded a team-high 28 assists and 11 digs.

South Windsor and Barlow both came out strong in the first set. While the Bobcats were able to take the lead early, they could not establish a large advantage against the aggressive Falcons. After Corey Levin earned a fourth consecutive point on a kill to tie it at 18, it looked like momentum might be shifting to his squad. Instead, South Windsor pounced.

Senior middle blocker Umaid Mirza’s strong return forced a Barlow error which he followed with a kill. Junior outside hitter Brandon Baker then showcased his strength by hitting two aces and a kill, giving his squad a 23-18 lead. A Falcons error and Stonoha hit secured the win.

“We executed everything to perfection at the end of the first and second,” said Baker, who finished with 12 kills and 11 digs. “That execution is what allowed us to win.”

Barlow looked unfazed, rushing out to an early lead second set lead behind strong serving and the hitting of Levine and Ryan Corr. The Bobcats slowly clawed their way back via their shot execution and the front court, which consistently set up and earned scoring plays. With the Falcons leading 17-16, South Windsor went on a 7-3 run highlighted by athletic plays and multiple Falcons serving errors. After they made it 23-22, Baker and senior middle blocker Jackson Foote obtained the winning points.

“All we wanted to do was to hang tough until the end of sets and force them into mistakes and we did that. We wore Barlow down,” Maneggia said.

Stonoha and Maneggia discussed the factors influencing the Bobcats excellent front court play.

“All of us wanted to play nice and simple and just keep pounding the ball. We played loose and made them work for points,” Stonoha said.

“Our assistant coach Keith Scheckel has refined our front court player’s games and ability. Also, our serving is so strong it makes it easy on Scott and the bigs,” Maneggia said.

South Windsor dominated much of the third set against the worn-down Falcons, executing well in every facet and building a 15-8 lead.

In each of the sets, Joel Barlow was partly unable to go on runs or stem South Windsor rallies due to its inconsistent serving and return games and bad habit of making unforced errors. Joel Barlow head coach Chris Lovelett discused the extent of these problems, particularly in the opening set.

“We made a lot of errors in game one and that’s just going to lead to negative thoughts and self-doubt that are hard to get out of,” he said. “We just kept not serving or receiving up to our standards and that hurt our offensive tempo and rotations. We also didn’t hit well out of system.”

Senior libero Benjamin Gousse, who Maneggia praised for his consistent play, finished with 23 digs. Levine earned 15 kills and 10 digs and Austin Houser 30 assists for Barlow.

“It’s amazing and unbelievable to get a title. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would have the team to win one,” Stonoha said.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *