WEST HARTFORD, October 21 – The Avon High girls volleyball team has big goals for the 2019 campaign and they won’t be easy to achieve.
But the Falcons have a solid, experienced volleyball team that is looking forward to the challenge.
“We have big plans,” long-time head coach Curt Burns said. “We’re not shying away from anything. We’re talking about it. We want to be in the CCC (Tournament) finals. We want to be in the state finals in East Haven. We know it will be a challenge but we’re embracing it.”
Avon is 13-1 and 7-0 in the CCC West Patriot Division. The Falcons can win the CCC West Patriot championship on Friday night with a win over Glastonbury (10-4, 5-2) on the road. It would be their first league title since 2005 when the Falcons won the North Central Connecticut Conference title.
The Falcons are looking forward to the CCC Tournament but they will be challenged by three-time defending CCC Tournament champion RHAM (12-0), who is ranked No. 2 in the most recent state coaches top 10 poll, and Bristol Eastern (13-0), who is ranked No. 3 in the state. Avon is ranked No. 7 in the latest poll.
Eastern is the only team to have beaten Avon this year with a 25-20, 20-25, 25-22, 25-20 victory. In fact, the Lancers are the only team to have won a game in a five-set match over the Falcons. In 13 wins, Avon has not dropped a single game.
Winning a state championship will be tough, too. Naugatuck (16-0), Guilford (15-0), Bristol Eastern and RHAM are undefeated and the top four seeds in Class L. Avon is currently the No. 5 seed.
To provide more opportunities for good teams to test each other, the CIAC allows weekend tournaments that are not part of the team’s regular season records. At the CIAC Early-Season Block Party in September, the Falcons went 5-1 with 2-0 sweeps over Trumbull, New Canaan and wins over Seymour. The Falcons did drop a game to Fairfield Warde.
At the Connecticut Fall Brawl earlier this month, the Falcons split with Darien, 1-1, dropped a game in a 2-1 win over Waterford and dropped a 2-1 decision to Ballston Spa, N.Y.
“We have good comraderie, good chemistry, good experience,” Burns said. “There is no particular skill that jumps out. They’re all good.”
It’s an experienced team that Avon puts out on the floor led by 6-foot senior hitter Emily Dempsey, who leads the team with 188 kills and is second on the squad with 31 serving aces. Senior Baylee Braun has 106 kills and leads the squad with 45 aces. Six-foot junior Eliza Jones has 72 kills while setter Abby St. Onge has 51 kills.
St. Onge, the tallest player on the team at 6-foot-2, is a multiple threat in the middle. Not only does she set but she can kill the ball and block. She is second on the team with 46 blocks. St. Onge has a team-leading 368 assists.
Junior Noelle Power has a team-leading 220 digs while junior Kelli Raines has 111 digs and 31 serving aces. Braun has 139 digs.
Dempsey had 12 kills while Braun had nine in a 3-0 win over Northwest Catholic on Monday. The Falcons swept the Lions, 25-12, 25-12, 25-22. Jones had seven kills while St. Onge had 30 assists.
Avon travels to Windsor (4-9) on Wednesday and travels to Glastonbury on Friday night with a chance to win the CCC West Patriot title. On Monday, Oct. 28, the Falcons will host Simsbury on Senior Night beginning at 5 p.m. Avon closes out the regular season at Farmington on Friday, Nov. 1, beginning at 6 p.m.
The first round of the CCC Tournament will be Monday, Nov. 4 with the quarterfinals on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The semifinals will be Thursday, Nov. 7 in Avon. The CCC Tournament final will be either Friday, Nov. 8 or Saturday, Nov. 9, in Avon.
The CIAC Class L tournament begins Monday, Nov. 11. The Falcons have never advanced past the quarterfinals in the Class L tournament. The last time that Avon played in the semifinals was in 2005 when the Falcons advanced to the Class M semifinals before losing to Seymour.