Welcome to the 2015 Season

Article from The Chronicle, by Rich Zalusky

Chloe Rishell had watched from the bench while RHAM High won three consecutive Class M girls volleyball state championships.
Now a senior, Rishell was on the floor Saturday afternoon at Glastonbury High School in the starting lineup in the Class M final against Joel Barlow.
It took just five points into the match — all won by Joel Barlow — for Rishell to be one of the focal points of an eruptive storm that was building up inside of Coach Tim Guernsey during a time-out.
“Coach got right in three of our faces — myself, Alicia Tripoli and Kara Trippel — and just screamed at us,” Rishell said. “We’re all the type of people that if we get screamed, at we’re going to do better.”
RHAM lost that first game, 25-16, and fell behind in Game 2, 6-1, drawing more ire from Guernesy.
“It was gut-check time,” Guernsey said. “I wanted them to know they needed to play with some intensity and leave it on the floor. There was no tomorrow. This is the last day of the season. There is not another opportunity this year. It has to happen today and has to happen now on every single point.”
Facing adversity, RHAM responded to those words.
And when it was over, well, it turned out just the way things have played themselves out four years and running in Class M.
Freshman Sarah Veilleux provided the exclamation point on match point as top-seeded RHAM (21-2) rallied for a 16-25, 25-22, 25-12, 28-26 victory over No. 3 Joel Barlow (21-4) to wrap up its fourth consecutive Class M state championship.
The fourth title capped a span during which RHAM has won 75-of-77 matches dating back prior to the 2007 Class M tournament, a span that was more emotional than the previous three due to the fact that Guernsey admits he was a lot tougher and more critical of this year’s edition that featured just two seniors — Rishell and Jocelyn Taylor.
“I thought I was going to get teary-eyed at the end because I’ve been so tough and wound up so tight that they never really even had an opportunity to breathe,” Guernsey said. “I was so tough and critical of what they were doing because I know I’ll have the majority of them back for another year.
“And I want them to be perfect come next season.”
RHAM started to turn things around when it effectively dealt with one of its main problems early on with serve/receive.
Once junior setter Laura Smolinski was able to calm things down and give her hitters — Taylor, Veilleux and Kelsey Kirkpatrick — opportunities to swing away at balls, when those balls went down for kills, it allowed those nerves to disappear.
“We just had to play not only our best, but our hardest,” Taylor said. “The first game and the opening points of Game 2 were not the best representation of what we’re all capable of doing.”
The Sachems were tied 18-all in Game 2 and built a pair of 3-point leads, the latter at 24-21.
Sarah McAniff (15 service points, eight kills, 15 digs) saved one game point for Joel Barlow before RHAM won it on a passing error.
Taylor (17 kills) won three of the first four points off sets from Smolinski (35 assists) with Veilleux providing four service points as RHAM quickly built a 6-1 lead and rolled to a 25-12 win in Game 3.
Trippel (17 digs), who received most outstanding performer honors, won the first three points on serve to begin Game 4, which was looking like it might be another runaway when sophomore Francesca Mack had a pair of kills in a 4-point run that gave the Sachems a 16-10 lead.
Back came Joel Barlow, which has lost to RHAM in three of the four finals, with one last fight.
The Falcons caught RHAM at 19-19 and led 23-21 before what proved to be costly bugaboos — missed serves — reared their ugly head.
Miss one was followed by a kill from Kirkpatrick that evened the game at 23-23.
Down 24-23, Paige Damascus saved a match point for Joel Barlow. RHAM did the same thanks to Veilleux evening things at 25-25.
Then, with Joel Barlow again at game point, 26-25, another serve into the net tied things up for the final time.
Taylor put away the next ball and on the second championship point, RHAM turned to Veilleux (10 kills, 10 digs) on the outside right with a powerful swing that showcased her unlimited potential to come through when it mattered most.
“Sarah is such a perfectionist that she didn’t want to make a mistake in this setting,” Guernsey said. “The last three matches, she didn’t care about making a mistake, she just swung. I love that she ended things that way.”
Renee Wasko had 25 assists and 10 digs while Rachel Schenck added nine kills and three blocks for Joel Barlow.
For Taylor, who was on the bench for the first title as a freshman against Joel Barlow (2007) and started as a sophomore against Jonathan Law in 2008), it’s four titles in four years.
“It’s just an incredible feeling,” Taylor said, who is headed to Bryant University in the fall. “I’m so excited and honored to be part of each of these teams.”
What made this fourth title feel sweeter for Guerensey was that both his seniors were on the floor when the match was won.
Last year, RHAM’s lone senior, Kelsey Welling, was sitting next to him on the bench at match point.
“We were up 24-23, they were sitting next to me and in the back of my head I was thinking, ‘I wish they were on the floor,’ “ Guernsey said. “I would have hated to finish like that but we had an opportunity at the point to finish it.
“All of the titles feel great, no question, but it’s just great that both Jocelyn and Chloe were out there when it happened.”

Updated: November 22, 2010 — 4:17 pm

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