WEDNESDAY VOLLEYBALL: Avon turns aside Maloney’s late surge

WEDNESDAY VOLLEYBALL: Avon turns aside Maloney’s late surge


MERIDEN — The Maloney girls volleyball team absorbed its first defeat of the season at the hands of Avon on Wednesday night, but they didn’t go out without a fight.

The Spartans overcame a big deficit in the third game with an 11-1 run, but ultimately were swept 3-0 by game scores of 25-19, 25-20 and 27-25. Both teams are now 2-1.

The visitors showcased a powerful offense that the Spartans had no answer for until midway through the third game. The Falcons were led by the precise hitting of Maddie Hart (12 kills) and Sofia Berrio (9 kills) and setter Audrey Worth’s 12 assists.

Avon did well to keep Maloney’s star outside hitter Melanie Polanco in check throughout. The senior came to life with seven of her 11 kills in the final game. She had a sideline slam to hold off match point at 24-23 in a back-and-forth Game 3. Ultimately, the Falcons withstood a furious Maloney push and clinched the match on a Hart kill.

“We came back and it was a good feeling,” Polanco said. “I’m proud of the team. We were down; we needed to fight. I knew the team needed me and I needed them. It was an exciting finish.”

Maloney had started the season with shutout victories over CCC South-Colonial Division rivals Berlin and Middletown.

Against Avon, a CCC West Patriot team, Anna Hendrickson was a constistent threat for Maloney all night. The senior had nine digs, six kills and five aces. Junior setter Carly Massicotte came through 21 assists.

It was all Avon early. Berrio had three kills in the Falcons’ 6-1 rally at the end of Game 1 that proved to be the difference.

The match started tight and was tied 8-8 before Avon exploded on a 7-1 run. Avon was seemingly in charge with a comfortable 15-9 advantage, but with Shanice Smith behind the line, the Spartans picked up some momentum. Maloney rallied back to within 17-16. Avon coach Curt Burns called a timeout and his girls responded, highlighted by the play of Berrio.

Game 2 was more of the same. Again it was 8-8 when the visitors broke it open. This time it was a 12-3 run highlighted by multiple kills from Hart and Abby St. Onge.

For Maloney, Hendrickson and Smith had two kills apiece for the Spartans in the set.

Game 3 started as bleak as the first two sets. Avon charged to an 8-3 lead. Maloney coach Kevin Savejs had seen enough. He called timeout and told his girls they needed to step up. They responded with an 11-1 run.

Joanna Perez started it by serving six straight winning points. Maloney made it seven in a row to take a 10-8 advantage and force Avon coach Curt Burns to burn a timeout.

“I wish we would have played like that the whole game,” Savejs said. “That’s a team I know we can beat. That was my speech to them after the game: To take that as an example of how they can play the game and harness that energy and play that way every time.”

The Avon timeout didn’t slow the Maloney momentum. Kills from Perez and Polanco put Maloney up 16-11.

The Falcons bounced back with a 9-2 streak to go up 20-18. Maloney answered with four straight points, including two more Polanco kills, each followed with a fist pump and a yell. Maloney did get to game point at 25-24, but Avon scored the match’s final three points to seal it.

“Maloney gave us a good fight, especially in that third set.” Burns said. “That’s typical when you win the first two. We won the first two fairly comfortably. They really made us earn it.”

Burns is in his 29th year and he said that Wednesday was the first time his team has met Maloney in girls volleyball. He also coaches the Newington boys volleyball team that has won Class M championships four of the last six years.


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