BERLIN — For the first time in 25 years, Platt has a state champion.
The Platt girls volleyball team completed a magical postseason run with a 3-1 win over top-seeded RHAM in the CIAC Class L final in front of a very loud 1,238 fans at Berlin High School on Saturday afternoon.
The No. 7 seeded Panthers won by game scores of 25-20, 18-25, 25-20 and 25-22.
Gaby Vazquez and her powerful right arm paved the way for the Panthers with a match-high 24 kills. She was named the Class L Final MVP. She also added a match-high 15 digs.
“We just wanted it more,” Vazquez said with tears of joy running down her face while clenching the state championship trophy. “We played with our heart, supporting each other. We are a family and that’s more important than all of this and this is something that will bond us forever.”
Vazquez provided the bulk of the artillery, but it was fellow senior outside hitter Jenixza Febles that finished match with the decisive kill, setting off a storming of the court by the Platt faithful.
“When that ball touched I was just thinking that we were getting a banner for our school,” Febles said. “It’s great. It’s a dream come true.”
The title was the school’s 12th ever state championship in all sports and the first of any kind since the girls volleyball team won in 1990. Platt also won Class M volleyball championships in 1985, ’86, ’88 and ’90.
On Satuday, Vazquez set the tone with seven kills in Game 1. Genesis Cora and Febles chipped in for the Panthers with two kills apiece as the Meriden squad overcame an early 8-4 deficit.
The Platt setters, Maria Duffy (23 assists) and Tierney Clancy (16 assists, 11 digs), were also spot-on early. They combined for 11 assists.
Vazquez sealed the opener with an ace and the Platt crowd was in full-throated roar.
The momentum did not carry over into Game 2 as the Sachems evened things up.
Platt trailed 13-12 before RHAM exploded for a 7-0 run fueled by three kills from Alana Hruska (13 kills) and a kill and a block from Katie Shea (12 kills). The bulk of the offense was set up by set up by McKenzie Maneggia (34 assists).
That spurt turned out to be the difference. The Sachems led by as many as nine points at 23-14. Platt fought off two set points but eventually succumbed.
In Game 3, it was the Panthers who broke open a close game. Platt ripped off a 8-1 run that established a 16-8 lead.
Destiny West (3 blocks) and Duffy provided serves that were tough for the Sachems to handle. West had an ace and Vazquez had three kills as the Panthers regained control of the match.
Platt eventually went up 24-15 behind more offense from West, Vazquez and Febles. The Sachems did stall Platt by wasting five set points, but Platt had more than enough cushion to go up 2-1 on the brink of a title.
The serving of Clancy that got the Panthers going in Game 4. She had a pair of aces and Vazquez added a block and three kills as Platt went up 8-4. Cora also came off the bench to add one of her four kills.
Platt build its lead to 15-11 before the Sachems came to life. A kill by Shea tied the set 17-17.
Then Vazquez stepped to the line.
The senior unloaded four straight critical points to put the Panthers up 21-17. She had two untouchable aces in that sequence.
Again, RHAM rallied to tie the game 22-22 with a 4-0 burst behind the precise serving of Riley Clark (12 digs).
Clark did miss a serve and the Panthers went ahead 23-22. It was Duffy’s turn to serve for the Panthers and she provided an ace to set up championship point.
“After I got that ace, it started to sink in,” Duffy said. “I though to myself, ‘Yes, we are getting this one; we are taking it home.’”
On the next point, Febles slammed down the game-winning kill that had the Platt fans celebrating a championship for the first in a quarter of a century.
This was the second time this month that the Panthers defeated the Sachems with hardware on the line. On Nov. 6, Platt beat RHAM 3-1 as the Panthers earned their first-ever CCC Tournament championship.
“Our kids fought hard and never gave up. This was a great experience for them to be in. Gaby played great,” RHAM coach Tim Guernsey said.
“They have two girls that can jump-spike and they are a tough serving team. I knew it was going to come down to serve and serve receive.”
The Sachems ended with a 24-2 record with both losses at the expense of 24-3 Platt.
Platt coach Lou Gianacopolos said the Panthers will really savor this victory.
“When we bring this banner back to Platt, we are going to raise it so slowly,” the coach said. “It’s just going to creep. Everyone is going to take a turn pulling that rope a little bit. I don’t care if it takes two and a half hours. I had a vision about it and I’ve dreamed about it. I would like to have our fans there while we raise that banner and let them and the faculty be a part of it.”
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