GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Mola money for Cheshire in sweep of Maloney

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MERIDEN — Cheshire junior outside hitter Avery Mola was dotting the court with aces for the Rams in the opening game in a 3-0 volleyball sweep of host Maloney on Tuesday night at the Benjamin P. Nessing Gymnasium.

The returning All-SCC and All-RJ player smacked down five in a row, to be exact, and sparked an 11-0 run as Cheshire improved to 2-0 and knocked the Spartans to 2-1.

Game scores were 25-13, 25-10 and 25-22 in a non-conference battle between two teams that had strong 2020 seasons. Cheshire was 13-1 last year and Maloney went 12-2.

The opening game was all Mola and her serving behind the line. After a 5-1 Maloney run that tied the match at 10-10, Mola went to work. She served an 11-0 run and Cheshire led 21-10 when it was done.

Tess Givens had a late kill as the Rams sealed the opening set, 25-13.

“It was amazing,” Mola said. “I’ve been working on getting more consistent with my ‘consistent serve’ and my ‘kill serve.’ I was just trying to be consistent.”

Bavone, who now has 542 career wins, said she was pleased to see her junior perform to that level.

“She’s a good little server. She was on a nice little run there and that was all her,” Bavone said. “She was hitting them long and short and moving them around. She just needs to have that same kind of control as a hitter.”

In the earlier moments of Game 1, Cheshire took control with a 5-0 run that included kills by Elena Lilback, Mola and Kathryn Ulicki and an ace by Tori Santi (6 digs).

Maloney countered with the 5-1 run that included a kill by Lacie Cox. Savannah Bernabucci (8 kills) also had a pair of kills in the opening set for the Spartans.

Maloney had early leads in the second set, but a 4-0 run put the Rams up 7-5 and they never looked back.

Cheshire opened up a 17-12 advantage later in the set on a 3-0 spurt that was served by Jenna Stickney. Lilback had one of her four kills during that run.

Maloney countered with three straight service points, including an ace, by Gracey Massicotte. The Spartans fought off two set points down the stretch before the Rams sealed the game on a Spartan miscue to go up 2-0.

Mola served the winning point. 

In Game 3, Santi served an 8-0 Cheshire run as the visitors took control of the set 10-3. Ulicki followed by serving a 5-0 run for Cheshire.

Givens had two late kills as Cheshire expanded its lead to 22-12. Maloney fought back with a 4-0 run served by Bernabucci forcing Bavone to call a timeout with a 22-16 advantage.

That uprising eventually turned into a 10-1 run. Maloney’s Xarianna Perez made it 22-18 with back-to-back kills and a Cheshire hitting error made it 22-19. 

Maloney got all the way to 23-22 before the game ended on a pair of Spartan errors.

Bavone said she was happy to earn the win, but wants her team to hit more aggressive.

“We got a long ways to go; we have things to figure out,” Bavone said. “We are working on our hitting. I want us more aggressive. There are a lot of new faces. Early in the season, you will take a win. Our serving is good. We want to make sure we are communicating.”

Stephanie Cicio had 10 digs to lead the Maloney defense.

Maloney coach Kevin Savejs said his team made too many errors. Part of that may have been going up against such a strong state power in Cheshire.

“We didn’t execute the way we needed to,” Savejs said. “This is good motivation for where the girls need to be. It’s good early season test and we will go to work to make improvements so the next time we play them it will be a different game.”

Savejs said he believes in his team, which opened the season with 3-0 sweeps of Rocky Hill and Windsor.

“I just want to see them play with more confidence,” Savejs said. “They have the potential and we will continue to work on it.”

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