For five sets, the Champlain Valley girls volleyball team traded aces, blocks, serves, and kills with top-seeded Essex as the two teams fought to claim the first Vermont Principals’ Association girls volleyball state title.
After all the momentum shifts and comebacks, the Redhawks emerged with the championship on Saturday at St. Michael’s College, topping the Hornets in five sets:17-25, 26-24, 25-22, 22-25, 15-10.
“Every time we play (Essex), it goes five sets. It was what we expected and what we prepared for,” said CVU coach Gino Johnson. “I am so proud of this group.”
CVU was led by junior Shannon Loiseau, who had seven blocks and 14 kills, and Lauren Johnson, who set the team’s offensive game with 25 assists.
“Today, we pulled it together,” Loiseau said. “We just went back to the fundamentals, worked really hard and we made it happen.”
The Redhawks offense emerged in full in the fifth and final set. After Essex scored the final eight points of the fourth to tie the match, CVU pulled in the final game to capture the title.
“We talked about how we have worked so hard every practice and we needed to take everything we do doing practice and put it into this game, right here, right now,” Loiseau said of how the team refocused in between the final two sets.
The Redhawks fell behind after the opening set, with Essex going on a 5-0, 4-0, and 5-0 run in the first game.
“We have a few girls who have been here before,” Gino Johnson said. “It’s really about one point at a time, focus on what we can control.”
In the second set, the two teams traded leads, with neither finding separation, until Lauren Johnson tapped the ball over the net for a point to pull CVU within three points. Natalie Senior then added a block and kill, combined with an Essex shot that went long, to pull even. Olivia Werner followed up with two quick points to clinch the 26-24 win for CVU.
“Getting our serves in, moving our feet,” Gino Johnson said. “We just focused on playing one point at a time.”
The close play continued in the third, with the Redhawks again scoring the final three points of the set to get the win. But Essex mounted a comeback in the fourth set, forcing the winner-take-all final set.
“It feels fantastic,” Gino Johnson said. “We lost eight seniors, so we had to rebuild so to come back here. It feels great.”
Champlain Valley finishes the season at 14-1, with the only loss coming to Essex in the regular season. The Hornets were undefeated coming into the championship and wrap up the year at 15-1.
Contact Lauren Read at firstname.lastname@example.org.