Jun. 11—MIDDLETOWN — The Enfield High boys volleyball team has been chasing a state championship since the program was established 29 years ago.
The Eagles were on the doorstep again Thursday when they traveled to Kohs Gymnasium at Xavier High to play unbeaten Darien in the Class L title match.
And although the Eagles didn't leave the gym as champions, they certainly left with respect.
The second-seeded Eagles fell to the top-seeded Blue Wave 3-1 in the Class L finale by game scores of 18-25, 25-17, 25-22 and 25-16.
"I think we really put Enfield on the map today," senior Andrew Herron said. "We set the tone for the team in future years to come."
Enfield was playing in its fourth state championship game Thursday, and first since 2013. The Eagles finish the season 18-3.
"It definitely sucks, it definitely hurts," junior Drew Rancourt said. "But we're just ready to make it back here next year and take the title for ourselves."
Meanwhile, Darien (23-0) won its fourth state championship in its seventh finals appearance.
"It means a lot," sophomore Trevor Herget said. "We worked really hard all season. They (Enfield) were great. They gave us some good competition. We played a little better than them, but they were really good."
Entering Thursday's match, the Blue Wave had lost a total of three sets in 22 matches this season. But the Eagles weren't fazed by that stat in the first set.
"Honestly, you have to stay in the point," junior Hery Chavez said of the Eagles' mindset. "My coach always says it: 'A game of volleyball is 75 points.' You just have to push on either way. If you lose a point, next point. I don't think we were nervous because we're playing for each other."
Except for one tie at 5-5, Enfield led the entire first set. The Eagles clinched the game when Griffith Crouse's serve went out of bounds.
Darien's first lead of the match came when it was 2-1 in the second set. Enfield took the lead right back thanks to a 7-3 run, but the Blue Wave replied with an 8-3 run of its own. Darien took the lead for good in the set during the run when John Zarek Swetye's serve on the line was ruled in, making it 12-11.
The Blue Wave clinched the set when a slapper from Enfield's Fritz-Carly Andre went out of bounds.
In the third set, the Eagles used an 8-2 run to overcome an early deficit. Down 13-12, Darien went on a 9-2 run to pull ahead. Enfield was able to cut the deficit to 23-22 thanks to a spike from Tyler Simmons, but the Blue Wave scored the final two points, clinching the game on a spike from Luke Bradbury.
The teams traded points to open the fourth set. With it tied 5-5, Herget put his team up for good with a one-hander.
"He did change a little bit," Enfield coach Judy Joslin said of Herget. "Our blockers are first-year players. To be able to block an experienced player like that, it takes time to practice. We lacked a little bit of practice this year. No excuses though."
Enfield kept it close, cutting it to 14-12, but the Blue Wave embarked on a 6-0 run to pull away. Bradbury clinched the match for his team with a spike.
"I think what I'm most proud about is we did not let up," Joslin said. "We fought to the end, and I'm so, so proud of them. I think I saw maybe two points they let up, but they came back with fire afterwards. You have to be proud of that."
Simmons paced the Eagles with 18 kills and six digs. Rancourt contributed 12 kills and four digs while Alvey Blier added 33 assists and 10 digs and Chavez chipped-in 12 digs.
"I'm so proud of every single one of them," Chavez said. "They're my best friends. Second-place is awesome. We made it this far. I just can't be more proud of this team."
Herget led Darien with 28 kills. Bradbury contributed 11 kills while Swetye finished with 44 assists.
Though the program's first state title remains elusive, Thursday's loss doesn't diminish the 2021 campaign for Joslin, the only coach the program has ever known.
"We had a great season, and I'm proud of that," she said. "I'm going to be very proud to put this silver up."
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