EAST HAVEN — After relinquishing a 2-0 lead to the Westhill girls volleyball team in the FCIAC semifinals, Trumbull had one thing to say for the CIAC Class LL rematch: Not again.
Riding off the high of their state semifinal against Fairfield Ludlowe, the Vikings entered East Haven High tonight looking to finish what they had started. Instead, the Eagles came through with a straight-set victory, 25-21, 25-21, 25-20.
It is the Eagles first state title in the sport.
“We’ve been working so hard since our loss in the FCIACs and a rematch against a phenomenal team was a great way to showcase that,” said Trumbull coach Nicole Trommelen. “I’ve had this class of seniors since they were freshmen and watching them shape the team to this point has been incredible.”
“Trumbull played an amazing game tonight,” Westhill coach Marianna Linnehan said. “There was nothing they weren’t picking up, no mistakes — unfortunately our service game wasn’t there tonight.”
The gymnasium’s energy matched that of the players, as both teams settled into a first set that ebbed and flowed. The Eagles turned a 7-4 deficit into a 10-7 lead before turning possession back over. The lead was short-lived, however, as a kill from Westhill’s Gloria Twum and a service point from Sanjana Nayak brought it back to 10-10.
With every step Trumbull took, Westhill took one back; the Eagles pushed the lead to 17-13, but two service points from Betsy Sachs evened it out.
“Talk it over,” Westhill fans chanted during a 21-21 timeout. Apparently the jeer proved sufficient, as the Eagles went on a 4-0 run and finished with a kill from Bailey Cenatiempo (9 kills, 2 service points, 2 digs) to close a 25-21 first set.
Hopes of wider Trumbull margins in the second set arose following an ace from Trumbull’s Kathryn Zanvettor and a kill from Lindsay Gibbs. The hopes were dampened with clutch digs by Westhill’s Maddy Bautista, but a beautiful one-handed save from Maeve Hampford and a subsequent kill from Ali Castro revitalized the Eagles.
Ashleigh Johnson then took over, forcing a seven-point run that led to two Westhill timeouts. The Vikings were left to chase, banking on two aces from Sachs and two kills from Sophia Thagouras to tie the score at 21-21. A final ace from Trumbull’s Stephanie Olah closed out the set.
“We were nervous after the second set after having lost to them once, and we all knew how incredible Westhill is,” said Johnson, the tournament MVP. “This time we were the ones that wanted it and it showed on the court.”
Sachs started the third set with a kill and stayed dominant throughout, bringing a three-point run for the Vikings. The din of Trumbull fans grew as the Eagles went ahead, 14-6, off three unforced errors and six service points from Natalie Onofreo. An ace and service point from Zanvettor made the score 17-9 and prompted a timeout.
Sachs (9 kills, 4 service points, 2 aces) kept Westhill in the last set with three kills, bringing the Vikings back to 17-14. Two key saves from Bautista (12 digs) kept Westhill alive before a kill from Gibbs secured the title for Trumbull.
Westhill, the third seed, ended with a record of 23-5.
“We got better and better as the season went on and I’m hoping to maintain that from here,” said Linnehan. “We’ll have a lot of senior losses but I’m hoping to continue the energy of this team into the next season.”
The eighth-seeded Eagles finished the season 21-4.
“We’ve fought all season for this day and now I could not be more proud of this team,” said Johnson. “We came in here thinking we were going to win and we pulled it off.”