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Cheshire Girls' V-Ball Looks To Extend Strong Tradition
Outside hitter Eryn Dorsey has grown up around Cheshire High School volleyball. Her older sisters, Elyse (2005) and Taylor (2009), were both captains as seniors.
“They are different players,” said Head Coach Sue Bavone. “Elyse was strictly a setter. Taylor set and played defense. I think Eryn has the most complete game in what she can do on the floor.”
Eryn is following in her sister’s footsteps as a senior captain this fall, joining classmate Becca Ligi (outside hitter).
“I felt the pressure of it,” explained Dorsey, of having two sisters elected captain. “It’s good to know I didn’t fail. I’m excited to get my turn to run the team with Becca.”
“It pushes you to be a role model and put the team first,” added Ligi.
This senior class has assumed leadership from five graduates who led Cheshire to a 22-2 season last year. CHS won a record-setting fifth straight Housatonic Division title (7-1) and defended their Southern Connecticut Conference crown (record nine titles overall). Cheshire reached the Class LL semifinals where they staged a late comeback to beat Fairfield Ludlowe 3-2 and advance to the school’s first state final since 2007.
CHS had ended the last three seasons a win short of a final appearance.
“It probably meant more to the coaching staff. We finally got out of the semifinals,” reflected Bavone. “Not all of those players had been involved in our previous trips. A lot of coaches will tell you that the semifinal is a harder match than the final.”
The Lady Rams held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 against Fairfield Ludlowe, but Fairfield came back to grab a 13-10 lead in the decisive game. After a kill by junior Jill Howard, Dorsey served the last four points of the match.
“I still get nerves after watching the video,” explained Dorsey. “Everybody was saying you can do this. I wanted to win it for those seniors.”
CHS came up short 3-0 in the final against Darien, ending a nine-match win streak.
“I was proud that we made it back there, but disappointed that we didn’t pressure them more,” Bavone said.
That loss has served as motivation for the 2013 team returning many letterwinners.
“We want to be back in the finals and win it this time,” stated Dorsey.
Cheshire hopes hitting depth will help offset what they lost to graduation. Amanda Palladino, the 2012 captain/middle hitter with Meredith Bryden (Coaches Award; 57 kills, 31 aces, 19 blocks), dominated at the net last year. Palladino led in kills (312) and blocks (117), adding 30 service aces and 36 digs. Palladino, who now plays at Springfield College (Mass.), was the first CHS player since 2004 to receive All-Class LL First Team. She was selected for the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game, joining fellow graduate Lisa Walle and junior Maria Buzzelli as All-Housatonic selections.
“We’ll miss Amanda’s size and power,” stated Bavone. “She really raised her game as a senior.”
Palladino and junior Sarah Rodgers were awarded CHS Offensive Players of the Year. They were both chosen as New Haven Register All-Area.
“It is tough to lose a player (Palladino) like that,” added Ligi, who supplied 85 kills, 79 digs, and 23 aces last fall. “We were close to all of the seniors. They brought great energy to the court.”
Bavone is looking for senior Eva Whelan (17 kills) and Howard (26 kills, 14 blocks) to step up in the middle. Howard’s blocking ability allowed her to see considerable varsity time, including the Class LL semifinals.
“I think she (Whalen) is motivated to get on the court this year. Eva is hitting the ball hard right now,” stated Bavone. “Jill can really block. She needs to be more of an offensive threat this season.”
Ligi, Dorsey (79 digs, 50 kills, 25 aces), and junior Jillian Haberli (76 kills, 13 aces, 18 digs) can contribute on the outside.
“It is a big deal,” said Dorsey, of becoming a starter last year. “There is something special about having your name called and get to slap hands with your teammates.”
Bavone credited Haberli for improving her footwork last year.
“Jillian can hit for power,” added Bavone. “Her defense is strong.”
Ligi dealt with shin splits in the pre-season. Another versatile player, senior hitter/setter Kathleen Hastie, has come back from a broken toe.
“We want to to get them healthy because they can do different things for us,” said Bavone. “I see us swinging more in the back row this year. Becca and (junior) Maria (Buzzelli) have that kind of power.”
CHS also lost Brittney Gunneson (84 kills, 51 assists, 41 aces, 30 digs, 24 blocks) and Walle to graduation at hitting positions. A Norwegian transfer, Walle contributed a team-best 54 aces last fall, along with 185 kills, 79 digs, and 23 blocks.
“We’ll miss Lisa’s IQ. She was a student of the game,” said Bavone.
Bavone hopes that this year’s senior foreign exchange student, Laura Heynen of Belgium, can set and hit like Gunneson did.
“She is a really good player,” said Ligi, of Heynen. “Europeans are always very good. It is a club sport over there.”
Bavone feels fortunate to return her starting setter, junior Sarah Rodgers. In 2012, Rodgers led with 606 assists. She posted 45 assists (personal-best) in a 3-2 loss at Amity. Rodgers also had 51 aces, 85 digs, and 17 kills.
“It’s great. Sarah is coming out at full strength,” said Ligi. “She knows us better now and where we like the ball.”
Bavone selected Rodgers as her Most Improved Player.
“You want to see who brings back their setter because those are going to be the best teams. Sarah is high intensity and vocal on the floor,” said Bavone. “With Laura’s setting experience, we could run a 6-2 (formation).”
Like Rodgers, Buzzelli (34 aces) broke into the lineup as a sophomore. Her 242 digs led the defense from libero. She had 28 digs in a 3-2 victory at Mercy in 2012.
“Maria is a good defender. We need her to improve in serve-receive,” explained Bavone, of her Defensive Player of the Year.
The defense didn’t return 2013 graduate Sarah Crooker (Cheshire Junior Women’s Club Leadership Award), but Phoebe Carmichael is back for her senior season. Carmichael and Crooker posted 79 and 41 digs, respectively, last year. Bavone isn’t sure if Buzzelli or Carmichael will play libero this year.
Despite graduating a top server like Walle, Bavone feels like that area will be a team strength again this season.
“We want to disrupt the passing on the other side of the net,” said Bavone.
CHS looks forward to renewing rivalries this fall. After splitting in the regular season, the Lady Rams and Amity shared the Housatonic title last year. They were scheduled to meet in the SCC final, but due to snow, the match was canceled and the teams named co-champions.
“We found out during lunch that day,” reflected Dorsey. “We were angry with co-champions because we wanted to earn it.”
“It was frustrating,” Bavone recalled. “We tied in the regular season, so we would have liked to decide the series. Secondly, playing that match would have allowed our young players to experience a championship setting before states. We feel like that is our (SCC) tournament.”
CHS meets Amity on Sept. 30 (6:30 p.m.), visiting Woodbridge on Oct. 18 at 5:15 p.m. They will also face Lyman Hall (Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m.; Oct. 11, 5:15 p.m.), Sheehan (Sept. 25, 6 p.m.; Oct. 14, 6:30 p.m.), and Shelton (Sept. 20, 7 p.m.; Oct. 9, 6:30 p.m.) in Housatonic play.
Cheshire travels to Sacred Heart Academy for Tuesday’s opener at 5:15 p.m. They will host them on Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m.
East Haven (Thursday, 6:30 p.m.; Oct. 23, 6:30 p.m.), Mercy (Sept. 16, 5:15 p.m.; Oct. 4, 6:30 p.m.), North Haven (Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m.; Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m.), Joseph Foran (Sept. 26, 6:30 p.m.; Oct. 16, 6:30 p.m.), and Branford (Oct. 2, 6 p.m.; Oct. 24, 6:30 p.m.) fill out the remainder of the SCC schedule.
Photo of Ligi and Dorsey was taken by Allen Paul/Cheshire Herald.