HAMDEN – With five points potentially left in her junior volleyball season, Conard’s Fely Yigle-Kaljob and the Chieftains saved their season.
Recording seven of the last nine points in the fourth game, No. 20 Conard took all the momentum into the fifth and deciding game, on its way to a 3-2 (25-18, 22-25, 17-25, 25-22, 15-10) upset over fourth-seeded Hamden at Hamden High Thursday evening.
With the victory, Conard will face fifth-seeded Amity, a 3-0 winner over Simsbury, in the quarterfinals at Amity High Saturday evening at 6 p.m.
“It was all about communication,” Yigle-Kaljob said after finishing with 16 kills and five digs. “We started to fight back. We helped each other and were talking. We were focused.”
Trailing 20-18 in the fourth game after an ace by Hamden’s Lauren Dooley, a block by Conard freshman Avery Theriault evened the game at 20. Two aces by Abigail Mayuri put the Chieftains up 23-20, before Conard closed out the fourth game.
“We had our struggles with the serve,” Conard coach Kerry Roller said. “We brought some former players in and had others serving to them. We told them the serving was going to be like nothing we see in practice. We were able to do that and finish the game. I though they (Yigle-Kaljob and Theriault) played well.”
With the momentum on its side Conard, had to overcome a 6-4 deficit in the final game, thanks in part to three straight aces by Dooley. A block by Theriault gave Conard a 9-8 lead and the Chieftains never trailed again.
An ace by Catherine Ding had Conard up 10-8, before a pair of kills by Yigle-Kaljob increased the margin to 13-9. When Meghann Morhardt had a kill to finish the fifth game, Conard capped its thrilling comeback.
“We had nothing to lose,” Roller said. “We lost our middle hitter (Nicole Abrahamsen) to an injury. We had a freshman (Theriault) playing middle hitter. We were not expected to be here. We had nothing to lose. It was a matter of coming together.”
For Hamden (19-5), the loss was a bitter one to endure as the Green Dragons looked to be on their way to the quarterfinal match up against Amity. Behind the play of Shanikqua Thompson (9 kills), Dooley (14 digs, 4 aces), and Tyra Smith (12 kills), Hamden rallied from a first game loss to win the next two games for a 2-1 lead.
“Conard did a great job,” Hamden coach Patricia Shugrue said. “They wanted it. You have to tip your hat to them. You have to always keep momentum on your side. We didn’t do that. My kids fought too. But, in a state tournament game, you can’t make mistakes like we did.”
After winning the second game by three points, Hamden pulled away to take the third game by seven. An ae by Sophia Flanders gave Hamden a 20-14 advantage, before a block by Smith had Hamden on the cusp of winning the third game.