Preview: Class S volleyball quarterfinals

I was right!

All six Shoreline Conference volleyball teams won their second round games on Wednesday proving once again that the SLC is the deepest volleyball conference in the state.

Today, those six teams take the court again, four of them playing one another.

First up, Morgan vs. Valley Regional: Morgan lost two sets to conference opponents this year and it was not Valley Regional. This one is easy. No SLC team has been able to solve the Huskies and the Warriors won’t this time either. Morgan wins 3-0.

Hale-Ray vs. Coventry: Granby snapped Coventry’s 76 match winning streak in the first game of the season, but the Patriots are still one of the elite teams in the state. Hale-Ray beat who they were supposed to beat in the Shoreline Conference and even had a 3-0 victory over Valley Regional midway through the season, but they are not a top team. The Noises are lucky to have gotten a good draw and made it this far. Coventry will send Hale-Ray home 3-0.

East Hampton vs. Haddam-Killingworth: A rematch of the SLC semifinals where the Bellringers won 3-1 after dropping the first set 25-10. I was at this game and all I can say is, it was the most exciting high school volleyball match I have seen. Tonight is sure to be another thriller. John Post has the postseason coaching experience, but so does Rich Langer (over 500 career wins). This one is old school vs. new school. H-K has the passing and attackers, East Hampton needs to do everything right in order to take this one. The Bellringers don’t have as much of an attack, they will have to play great defense and not make mistakes. I can’t predict this one, but I do believe it will go five sets.

Coginchaug vs. Lyman Memorial: This will also be a great match if the best Coginchaug team shows up. The Blue Devils were arguably the most talented team in the SLC, they just need to put it all together. Caryn Sibiskie is one of the top blockers in the state and Sydney Trusty might be one of the top servers and attackers, but Lyman Memorial will be tough. The Bulldogs played a tough schedule, including some larger schools. This is a tough task for Coginchaug, but the good news is, they haven’t seen them yet this year. As much as I want Coginchaug to move on, I think they lose 3-1.

My semifinals: Morgan will play Coventry in the state tournament for the first time since 2009 when the Patriots defeated the Huskies 3-0 in the finals. If this happens, Coventry will beat Morgan 3-2 and advance to their 10th straight Class S state final.

Lyman Memorial will play East Hampton or H-K: I still can’t pick a winner between the Bellringers and Cougars. If EH wins, they will lose to Lyman Memorial. If H-K wins, they will beat Lyman Memorial and play for the state championship.

I know it’s confusing, but after tonight, the semifinals will be set.

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Shoreline Conference in Class S tourney

All four Shoreline Conference teams won their opening round games in the Class S state tournament on Monday. Sox of the eight games to be played on Wednesday will contain a SLC team.

Morgan, the top seed and only undefeated in Class S will take on the Warhawks of Bloomfield at 6 p.m. Although Bloomfield (12-8) played in the larger and arguably best volleyball conference in the state, the CCC, Morgan is just too dominant to fall this early in the tournament. The Huskies played one match this year vs. a school outside of Class S, Fitch, and still won 3-2. Morgan will cruise into the quarterfinals.
I believe No. 24 Valley Regional will “upset” No. 8 Capital Prep. I don’t think it is a true upset, because of where the Warriors are coming from. Again, out of the tough SLC, Valley went 10-10 and beating Hale-Ray and Coginchaug in the last two matches of the season. Valley Regional is peaking at the right time and will handle the Trailblazers, although it may not be a sweep. The CSC is full of tech schools who beat up on each other, so this may be an interesting match, but I still believe Valley moves on.
Another possible seed upset comes in the No. 5 Wilcox Tech vs. No. 21 Hale-Ray match. The Noises have one key win this season, a 3-0 victory over Valley Regional, which goes to show that anything can happen in the middle of the SLC. Wilcox is another one of those Tech schools that plays a fairly easy schedule, finishes with a great record, thus receiving a high seed. I have not seen any of them play, but I believe Hale-Ray is a very good team and will prevail.
Haddam-Killingworth is probably the most complete team in Class S. They have three to four very strong attackers and pass the ball very well. Although they lost to East Hampton in the SLC semifinals last week, the Cougars are still very deserving of a top spot in this tournament. I honestly don’t know anything about Griswold, but I do know a lot about H-K and they have the talent and coaching to possibly make a run at the finals.
East Hampton vs. Northwest Catholic is an interesting one. The Bellringers are ranked 7th out of the SLC and the Indians are the 23 seed coming out of the CCC. Both teams play in very tough volleyball conferences. John Post will have East Hampton ready to play, but if they underestimate NW Catholic, this could be an upset.
The bottom of the bracket contains Wolcott Tech vs. Coginchaug. Having seen the Blue Devils play a few times this year, I know they are possibly the most talented team in the Shoreline Conference. They are also the only team in conference to win a set over Morgan (they did it twice). I don’t see Coginchaug having any problem with Wolcott Tech, another “upset,” but not really.
I believe all SLC schools will win their 2nd round matches, which would set up two all SLC quarterfinal games. This would be big for the small school conference and exciting for the Middletown Press.

Back on deadline

A couple of weeks ago, before the fall high school sports season began, Jimmy Zanor of the Middletown Press called me and asked if I was ready to write for the paper again. Of course I was and couldn’t wait to get started.
The first assignment he gave me was a season preview for Portland boys soccer. I thought, “no problem, I’ve done these before,” but it wasn’t that easy. I mean, yeah, it was short, but after looking at last season’s record (not a single win) I knew it was going to be tougher than expected.
When I got to the field for practice the coach joked with me saying, “must be a slow news day if you’re coming here.” Yeah, I don’t really know why Jimmy wanted me to do that story, but I did it anyway and it came out well for being my first story in a few months.
After the weekend he asked me to profile the girls team from Portland, which would be a little easier since they had a lot to talk about. Last year they played in the class S state finals, so saying they would like to finish the job this year in about 500 words was easy.
After submitting these stories to Jimmy to edit and seeing them on the website, it felt good to be back. He had made some edits, but I’m always learning and seeing the changes that make my stories sound better make me want to be better.
The first game story I did this season was Coginchaug vs. Haddam-Killingworth volleyball. Last fall I became a big volleyball fan after watching Central Connecticut State and lots of Shoreline Conference contests, so this game would be fun. It was a great match with H-K winning in five sets.
I drove home and wrote my game story in about an hour or so and got it in well before deadline, but the pressure of getting a story done in time was fun…again. It feels good to be back on deadline.