BERLIN -- The Staples student section rushing the court, as has been customary during its volleyball teams' run through the FCIAC and Class LL tournaments, is usually is reserved for victories. That wasn't the case at Berlin High School in the Class LL final; it was done as a show of support for its team after falling at the final hurdle.
Despite rallying to win the first game, No. 2 Staples fell in four games to top-seeded Cheshire, which finished off a perfect 27-0 season with a 3-1 (24-26, 25-17, 25-15, 25-17) win Saturday for its sixth state title. Rams libero Maria Buzzelli took home MVP honors.
"Cheshire made so many miraculous plays; they did a nice job of blocking us at the net," Wreckers coach Jon Shepro said "They served real well, we had a hard time getting started in our serve-receives. They hit from all over the place; the middle, the weak and the outside."
The Wreckers were unable to capture their first state championship in its fifth finals appearance. In a stellar season led by a senior cast, Staples reached the FCIAC final in addition to reaching Berlin.
"We had a great season all the way around; you can't take anything away from that," Shepro said. "We played real hard both times and came up short both ways."
Staples (20-2) showed tremendous fight in overcoming a 23-18 deficit in Game 1. After the teams traded points through 16-15, Cheshire went on a run to grab control of the set. The Wreckers then found their offense behind Amelia Brackett (17 kills, eight digs) and Lauren Mushro (seven kills, 14 digs), and pushed the set into a tiebreaker.
"That was awesome, it kind of proved that we know we can beat them and come back," Brackett said. "After we had that we could have taken that confidence and beat them but we weren't able to get the momentum."
Despite blowing the big lead, it was the Rams who quickly gained the momentum right back in Game 2. Cheshire jumped out to an 11-6 lead, and while Staples did manage to close the gap to 16-13 midway through the set, the Rams never relinquished control.
"I don't think we were able to get that momentum going," Brackett said. "They were able to get a few points and start rolling and we weren't able to do that. We were kind of nervous; we weren't playing nervous but we were nervous."
The tide of the contest turned for good during a stretch at the beginning of Game 3. While Staples jumped out to an early 7-3 lead, forcing a Rams timeout, Cheshire scored nine straight. The point with the score tied 7-7 included a multiple of outstanding plays from both sides that involved nearly 10 swings for the Wreckers.
"I guess it turned around on that," Shepro said. "I thought it was a great point on our part, we kept swinging and swinging, I'm proud of my girls for that; Cheshire kept making great plays. Maybe it turned on that but I'm proud of my girls."
Staples jumped out to a 5-1 lead in Game 4, only to have the Rams charge back after another timely timeout. Before the Wreckers could blink, the score was 17-11 in favor of Cheshire and their season was rapidly drawing to a close.
"I really wanted this one, (the emotions); it's all of it," Brackett said. "It's great, I love these girls; it is great to be with them and it was great to have them as teammates and it was great that our season lasted as long as it did because I didn't want it to end."
After falling to FCIAC and state power Darien a year ago, the Rams ensured history didn't repeat itself with a dominating performance over the final three games.
"I feel like we're trying to carry the torch for the SCC here," Cheshire coach Sue Bavone said "(The FCIAC is) a strong conference, they've been a strong conference forever. I feel like our conference is right there with them, that's why we battle them so much. It is nice to finally win it."
Cheshire 3, Staples 1
STAPLES 26 17 20 17--1
CHESHIRE 24 25 25 25--3
Records: Cheshire 24-0, Staples 20-2. Highlights: S--Amelia Brackett had 17 kills, two eight digs. Lauren Mushro had seven kills, 14 digs and four aces. Ariana Sherman had 25 assists.