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Girls Volleyball

Avon tops RHAM to earn first-ever berth in state championship game

Avon’s Abby St. Onge, right, had five blocks and 26 assists in Wednesday night’s win over RHAM in the Class L semifinals.

For the first time in school history, the Avon High girls volleyball will play for a state championship.

The Falcons tied a season-high with 12 blocks and finished well to beat RHAM, 3-2, on Wednesday night at Sport Science Medical Academy in Hartford to earn a berth in Saturday’s Class L championship match.

No. 2 Avon (22-2) beat RHAM 25-22, 18-25, 23-25, 25-18 and 15-11. The two teams had faced each other 13 days ago in the Central Connecticut Conference Tournament semifinals with the Sachems earning a 3-1 decision. Avon will face No. 5 Guilford (23-3) in the state championship match beginning at 10 a.m. at East Haven High School.

“The girls played hard and executed our game plan well, especially on defense,” long-time Avon head coach Curt Burns said. “We planned to block their dominant middle attack. Offensively, we ran a faster attack than RHAM and led to quick point scoring opportunities.”

In game four, the Falcons had a three-point lead, 20-17 and closed out the game with a 5-1 run to earn a 25-18 decision and tie the match at 2-2. In the decisive game five, Avon used a 7-2 run to race out to a commanding 12-2 lead. The Falcons prevailed, 15-11 to win the match.

Hitter Sarah Jacobs led the Avon defense with a team-high six blocks while setter Abby St. Onge had five blocks. Eliza Jones had four blocks while leading hitter Emily Dempsey had three blocks.

The twelve blocks tied a season-high for most blocks in a game. It was enough to keep the Sachems (22-2) from building big leads – something they did successfully in the CCC Tournament victory.

Abby St. Onge, left, and Eliza Jones go up for a block in the CCC Tournament. Avon beat RHAM on Wednesday night to earn a spot in Saturday’s Class L championship game.

“Our senior starters (St. Onge, Dempsey, Jacobs, Baylee Braun) all played well,” Burns said. “Junior libero (Noelle) Power and middle (hitter) Eliza Jones were very good.”

The return of junior hitter Kelli Raines at opposite hitter was very helpful while freshmen Josie Power and Katelyn Wankier played well.

Dempsey, Avon’s leading hitter this season, had another strong all-around contest. She head a team-high nine kills and 14 digs. Braun had eight kills and 13 digs while Jones had eight kills. St. Onge had a team-leading 26 assists and seven kills, too. Powers had a team-leading 22 digs.

Avon grabbed an eight-point lead in the opening game, 16-8, before RHAM cut the lead to two, 22-20 but the Falcons were able to close out the win with a 25-22 win. RHAM took a 2-1 lead with a 25-18 win in game two and a 25-23 thriller in game three when the Sachems won three straight points to secure the victory.

RHAM had played in five of the last six Class L championship matches winning three times in 2017, 2016 and 2013. Avon was making their first semifinal appearance since 2005 when they lost in the Class M semifinal to Seymour.

Avon senior Baylee Braun (6) puts down a hit in in a victory over Simsbury earlier this year.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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