The frustration for the Joel Barlow High girls volleyball team came a little earlier in the state tournament.
The top-seeded Falcons, who lost in the finals of Class M in each of the past three seasons, moved up a level to Class L this year due to an increase in school enrollment. It was a seamless transition in the earlier rounds.
But as has been the case in recent seasons the Falcons ran into some difficulty. After making short work of their opponents in the earlier rounds they finally met the most competition they had seen all season when they faced fourth-seeded Vikings East Lyme last Thursday, Nov. 17. The two-time defending champs refused to surrender their title at that point, outlasting Barlow 3-2 (25-18, 22-25, 23-25, 25-20, 9-15) at Shelton High.
The loss was the first of the season for Barlow, which finishes with a 23-1 overall record.
“They were a very tough team,” said Barlow head coach Steve Antal. “They played great defense. They served well.”
The Falcons carried their winning momentum into the match at first. Like every other one this season, it started with them taking the first game.
With the help of some strong net play by senior captain Sarah McAniff in particular they won the opener. Such was the first game the Vikings lost in this year’s tournament.
East Lyme, however, bounced back in the next contest, taking a small lead and then holding on to close it out. This in turn marked the first game the Falcons had lost this season.
After dropping the third contest the Falcons found themselves in an unfamiliar situation this season — trailing in a match. They evened things up in the next, taking a 20-12 lead before closing it out.
Both teams battled for supremacy in the deciding game. With the Vikings up 10-9, they reeled off five straight points to earn their third straight trip to the finals while the season ended for Barlow.
McAniff led Barlow with 22 kills. She also had six service points in her final high school match. Classmate and captain Victoria Shea had five points and nine kills in her final match and Samantha Schwear had 12 points and 43 assists.
“We played tough,” said Antal. “We just had a couple of plays here and there where we couldn’t finish.”
Note: While East Lyme reached the finals it ultimately surrendered its title with a 3-0 loss to third-ranked Bristol Eastern.