No. 11 Avon rallies to beat Conard in a tough five-game victory

The Avon High girls volleyball team celebrates after fighting off two match points and beating Conard in game five to win the match, 3-2.

The Avon High girls volleyball team celebrates after fighting off two match points and beating Conard in game five to win the match, 3-2.

AVON – The Avon High girls volleyball team played with determination Friday night against Conard of West Hartford in a Central Connecticut Conference contest.

After three games, Conard led the best-of-3 match, 2-1. In the decisive game five, the Chieftains erased an three-point Avon lead and had two match point opportunities. But the Chieftains couldn’t close out the bout.

No. 11 Avon, led by junior Maddy Hart with a match-high 24 kills, scored the final four points of the match to win game five, 16-14 and earn a hard-fought 3-2 decision over the Chiefs. The Falcons (5-1) captured game one, 25-16 only to see Conard win the next two games, 26-24 and 24-20. Avon won game four, 25-16.

“They were much better than their record showed,” Avon High coach Curt Burns said. “They gave us a battle. They really challenged us. We had to fight, fight, fight.”

Conard came into the bout with a 1-5 record having faced two top 10 teams in the first three weeks of the season – No. 3 Glastonbury and No. 6 Farmington – along with tough teams from Southington and E.O. Smith.

“Give Conard credit, we had to fight for every point,” Burns said.

Avon's Victoria Abdelmalek had nine kills and six digs in Friday night's win over Conard.

Avon’s Victoria Abdelmalek had nine kills and six digs in Friday night’s win over Conard.

Three times, Avon had leads of three points in game five but Conard wouldn’t fold. Hart had three kills in a rally that gave the Falcons a 9-6 lead. But Conard scored five of the next six points to take a 12-10 lead with a kill from sophomore Fely Yigle-Kaljob.

A few plays later, Conard was one point away from winning the match with a 14-12 lead. Avon fought off two match points.

Hart’s kill cut the lead to one. Conard couldn’t handle the serve from Avon’s Victoria Abdelmalek to tie the game at 14-14. On the next rally, it was Abdelmalek with a good dig on a hit from Yigle-Kaljob to keep the rally alive. Avon won the point on a hit from Hart. An ace from Abdelmalek clinched the game and the match for the Falcons.

Avon went to Hart in game five and she responded with six of her career-high 24 kills. She also had a season-high 16 digs. She began the season slowly, recovering from a pre-season ankle injury. But she is getting more comfortable on the floor. She had 13 kills on Wednesday in a 3-1 win over Bristol Eastern (25-19, 22-25, 25-20, 25-20).

“She is a very skilled athlete,” Burns said. “She can play in the front court and back court. We rely on her for her passing. She has the hardest hit on the team.”

Abdelmalek had nine kills, four serving aces and six digs while setter Audrey Worth had a career-high 42 assists along with 14 digs. Erin Sutter added seven kills for the Falcons.

“To be 5-1 after six matches, I have to pleased,” Burns said. “But we still have a long way to go to get where we want to be. This was a good test for us.”

The Falcons return to the court on Monday when they travel to East Hartford. The next home game for Avon is on Wednesday when the Falcons host Newington at 6 p.m.

NOTES: Avon was ranked No. 11 in the first state volleyball coaches poll of the season, just six points behind No. 10 Stamford. … Avon will be hosting the semifinals and championship game of the 2016 CCC Tournament in late October. The top 16 teams in the league qualify for the tournament.

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