Bristol Eastern has been a head above the rest in terms of success among local girls volleyball teams, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a load of other memorable squads that made deep state tournament runs.
In addition to the Lancers, New Britain and Southington have each reached the pinnacle of the state tournament, while Berlin has come close. Eastern continues to be a consistent winner, but multiple local teams are regulars in the state tournament, and this list highlights the most memorable.
Here are the best girls volleyball teams to ever come through the local area:
BRISTOL EASTERN, 1987
By the start of the 1987 season, the Lancers had been to two state championships, including the previous year, and had lost them both. But the program was starting to turn into a steady contender under head coach Gail Ericson, and in 1987, the committed reboot of the program was rewarded.
Eastern didn’t overmatch its opponents during the regular season, earning the No. 7 seed in the Class M state tournament, but it did play some of the best competition around, but the Lancers showed why they scheduled that top competition once the tournament began. Eastern swept away No. 10 Notre Dame-West Haven in the first round, then did the same to Waterford in the quarterfinals to secure a trip to the semifinals against No. 6 Torrington. Eastern continued to roll with a 3-1 win, then dispatched Platt, which has just swept top-seeded St. Joseph, 3-1 in the final to earn the program’s first state title.
A key setter on that 1987 team was Stacy Mills, now Stacy Rivoira, who led the Lancers to some state titles of her own as a coach.
BRISTOL EASTERN, 1991
The Lancers were back in the state final four years later, and were starting to look like a perennial title contender after cruising to a 16-2 record in the regular season to earn the No. 5 seed in the Class L state tournament. Having been boosted up a class, Eastern didn’t skip a beat, handling Fitch 3-1 in the first round before sweeping Staples in the quarterfinals. Next was Mercy, a team that had shocked top-seeded Glastonbury in the first round, but the Lancers made sure Mercy’s magic had run out, cruising to a 3-1 victory to get back to the state final for the first time since winning it all in 1987.
Waiting in the championship was No. 2 Amity, and Eastern proved themselves as the best team in the class by gutting out a tense 3-2 win to hang another banner, and there would be more to come.
BRISTOL EASTERN, 2005
Ericson and the Lancers labored through a title drought after their 1991 win, only making the state final in 1996 before getting back in 2005.
Armed with a dynamic hitter in Sara Plourde, Eastern rolled to a perfect 18-0 record in the regular season, earning the top spot in the Class L state tournament. After a bye in the first round, the Lancers battled through a tough first set with No. 16 Newington in the second round, but won 25-21 before rolling through the next two to earn the sweep. In the quarterfinals, the Lancers dropped the first set to Mercy before winning two straight, then made it three with a thrilling 26-24 victory in the fourth set to advance to the semifinals, where they made quick work of No. 5 East Haven in a 3-0 sweep.
No. 7 Masuk waited in the state final, but Eastern continued to cruise, dominating in three straight sets to win the title and stake its claim as one of the most dominant teams in program history. Plourde earned her first of three All-State selections, and would lead the team in its quest to repeat the following season.
BRISTOL EASTERN, 2006
It’s tough to follow up on a perfect regular season and a state championship, but the Lancers were able to do that in 2006. Once again, the team was perfect in the regular season, leading to another No. 1 spot in the state tournament. That’s when the run of dominance began.
After a bye in the first round, Eastern swept Branford in the second round, though the final two sets were decided by a combined six points. The Lancers lost their only set of the tournament in the quarterfinals against Mercy, which took the second set to tie the match at one apiece, but Eastern responded with two straight wins to reach the semifinals, where it swept away No. 5 Maloney to return to the state final.
The dominance continued at Fairfield Ludlowe High School, where Eastern met No. 2 East Lyme in the state championship. Playing like a true No. 1 seed, the Lancers left no doubt in the final, winning all three sets by at least six points to sweep away the Vikings and repeat as state champions for the first time in program history.
Plourde was named tournament MVP after another All-State campaign which she capped off with 20 kills and 10 digs in the state final.
BRISTOL EASTERN, 2012
Plourde and the Lancers came up just short of a three-peat after losing in the 2007 state final, but five years later, the program was back for more.
This time, it would be Eastern denying another team its chance of a three-peat when it met two-time defending champion East Lyme in the state championship match, but first, there was a 17-1 regular season that earned the team the No. 3 seed in the tournament, behind two undefeated squads in RHAM and Joel Barlow. The Lancers looked determined once the tournament began, easily disposing of Guilford with a 3-0 sweep in the second round, winning all three sets by double digits. Trouble arrived in the quarterfinals with a first-set loss to Fitch, but Eastern quickly responded with three straight wins, all by double digits, to advance to the semifinals, where the Lancers took down undefeated RHAM 3-1 to set up a rematch with East Lyme, the team they beat for their last state title.
Eastern quickly made it known that there would be no three-peat celebrated at East Haven gymnasium, dominating 25-12 in the first set to set the tone for a 3-0 sweep and the program’s fifth state championship.
Karissa Smith was named MVP of the tournament after recording a match-high 11 kills, while Cheyenne Orsi added six blocks and five kills. Sophomore Brianna Root, a future All-State pick, recorded 23 assists in what was the program’s last appearance in the state championship.
The Blue Knights came into the 2009 season having never won a state championship, and had only reached a state championship match once, back in the spring of 1995. Southington High School boasts a number of consistent winners with multiple athletic programs, but by the time the first decade of the new millennium was drawing to a close, the girls volleyball team was still looking to win the last match of the season.
That all changed with one dominant campaign that still remains the most memorable season for the program.
Hungry for a first-ever title, the Blue Knights rolled to a 17-1 record in the regular season, earning the top overall seed in the Class LL state tournament. After a first-round bye, Southington downed Cheshire in the second round and dropped the first set to No. 9 Newtown in the quarterfinals, but rallied to claim three straight sets to advance to the semifinals, where the Blue Knights won a thriller against No. 5 NFA. After winning the first two sets, NFA stormed back to take the next two before Southington regained its footing and won the decisive fifth set 15-11 to move on to the final.
In a classic battle against No. 2 Fairfield Ludlowe, the two teams traded sets to set up a winner-take-all fifth set, where the Blue Knights rolled to a 15-6 win to finally become champs. The team was led by key seniors like Katie Byrnes, Rachel Volpe and Lauren Bauchiero.
NEW BRITAIN, 1998
The Hurricanes have only reached the state championship twice in their history, but and they came oh-so close to making them both wins. Still, despite a loss in the Class L title match in 1998, it was still a season to remember for New Britain.
Coming off a strong season where Lyndsey Ryba was named to the All-State team, the Hurricanes were an unstoppable storm during the regular season, coasting to a league championship and a 17-1 record to earn the top spot in the Class L state tournament. New Britain took care of business through the first two rounds, losing just one total set in wins over Guilford and Newtown to reach the semifinals, where the Hurricanes just got past No. 5 Amity with a 3-2 win to reach the program’s first title match. There, New Britain met No. 6 Cheshire, which was poised to become one of the most consistent programs in the state. The Rams won the title match 3-1, but head coach Michelle Abraham and the Hurricanes would have their revenge, even after losing All-State senior Karolina Wytrykowska.
NEW BRITAIN, 1999
Just one year after coming painfully close to a first-ever state title, the Hurricanes were back to finish the job in 1999, and they played that way. After rolling to a perfect 18-0 record and another league title, New Britain was back in the state tournament as the top seed once again. The Hurricanes, hyper-focused on avenging the painful loss from a season before, coasted through Maloney, Stamford and Guilford to once again reach the state final, where they met a familiar foe in Cheshire.
The Rams were the No. 2 seed in the tournament, but New Britain showed why it was No. 1, claiming a gritty 3-2 victory to hang its first state championship banner. The Hurricanes finished the dominant season 25-0 behind the leadership of team captain Melisa Czeremcha
The Redcoats have only been to one state championship in their history, and that came in 1989 after a 14-4 regular season.
Earning the No. 5 seed in the Class S state tournament, Berlin looked like a true contender once the tournament got underway, sweeping No. 12 Wilcox Tech in the first round before doing the same to No. 3 Northwest Regional in the quarterfinals. The last win of the season came in the semifinals with a 3-1 win over Stamford Catholic, but second-seeded Valley Regional was too tough a task in the final, as Berlin was swept in the championship match. Still, 1989 marks the deepest tournament run the Redcoats have ever had.
Like Berlin, the Kangaroos have only been to one state championship match in their history, and the 2000 team remains the best Terryville has ever had.
The Kangaroos looked like one of the best teams in the state as the regular season concluded. Terryville came into the Class S state tournament boasting a 16-1 record, tied for the best in the class and good enough for the second seed in the tournament. Facing off against O’Brien Tech in the first round, the Kangaroos cruised to a 3-1 sweep to set up a date with No. 7 Morgan in the quarterfinals, where Terryville nearly missed on a sweep but was able to finish the win with a 16-14 victory in the third set. That secured a match with No. 3 Haddam-Killingworth, which went 16-2 in the regular season and also hadn’t lost a set up to that point in the tournament. The Kangaroos dropped the first set and looked outmatched in a 15-9 loss, but rallied to win three straight after a dramatic 16-14 win in the second set to head to the state final. The run would come to an end after a 3-0 loss to Gilbert, the top overall seed, but Terryville battled hard in the opening set, coming up just short in a 17-15 defeat.