RHAM volleyball seniors (l-r) Leah Bahamonde, Zoe Parkinson, and Grace Nieszczewski following state championship victory over Simsbury on Nov. 20
Girls volleyball at RHAM High School defeated Simsbury in the Class L state championship on Nov. 20, avenging an earlier loss and capturing the program’s eighth title since 2007.
The championship triumph was the cherry on top of a memorable season for the Raptors, who won 23 total matches.
Leah Bahamonde, Zoe Parkinson, and Grace Nieszczewski were the only three seniors on a roster loaded with talented youth and depth.
Bahamonde, who captained the team with Parkinson, said the beauty of the team was that everyone was look at as an equal.
“We didn’t pay attention to age. Everyone was treated the same,” said Bahamonde. “It was our bond that made us special. We had freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors playing. We were all such close friends that it worked.”
It was an early-season trip to play a tournament in New York that matured the team.
“When you play teams that are really good you learn a lot about your own team. You see where you struggle or where you excel and in New York we found some weaknesses on both offense and defense,” stated Bahamonde. “New York was a really great experience for us to learn about ourselves.”
Upon returning from New York, the team dropped a game at Southington before reeling off 18 straight wins spanning from Sept. 15 to Nov. 1.
“We came together. In the Southington game we were a team physically, but emotionally we weren't as connected as we should have been. It was more just six players playing individually,” added Bahamonde. “After that we connected and built friendships and we kept winning.”
Juniors Sarah West and Ally Hadley controlled the front of the net for the Raptors.
West teamed with Parkinson to form a strong middle. West led the team in kills with 276 and finished second in blocks (64). Parkinson finished with a team-high 76 blocks and added 176 kills.
Hadley and sophomore Lani Fecho played as outside hitters, finishing with 276 and 159 kills, respectively. Hadley also served up a team-high 88 aces this fall.
Junior Lauren Feige set up the powerful front line, dishing up 721 assists as the team’s steady setter.
Following 18 consecutive wins, the team suffered a loss for the first time in 46 days in the second round of the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) tournament when #9 Simsbury upset the top-seeded Raptors in five sets on Nov. 2.
The loss derailed the winning streak, yet refocused a team that set their sights on a bigger prize.
“Our coach talked about how that loss might have been necessary. He talked about how you have to lose to know how to win,” Bahamonde said of head coach Tim Guernsey’s message following the conference loss.
Thanks to an 18-1 regular season record, RHAM earned a first round bye in the Class L tournament. They proceeded to beat New Milford in three sets in round two, eliminated South Windsor in four sets in the quarterfinals, and ousted North Haven in three sets in the semifinals, serendipitously setting up a rematch against Simsbury in the championship match.
“As soon as we won our semifinals game we got on the bus and all anybody could talk about was playing Simsbury,” Bahamonde said of the rematch, “We had no fear. You would think since we lost we might be scared but everyone was so excited and pumped up. I actually have never seen our team so calm and it was pretty ironic that it was before the most important game. I think that came from the fact that we knew we could beat them.”
Not only did the team avenge the conference loss, they destroyed Simsbury, winning in straight sets (25-21, 25-16, 25-20).
Hadley was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, starring in the championship match with a team-high six aces, seven kills, and adding 14 digs.
Bahamonde, who started at libero all season, also added 14 digs in the championship match, upping her team-high total to 453 digs this season. It was her first year in the defensive position, moving over from outside hitter to fill a team need.
“It’s a really amazing feeling because as a freshman I remember all I wanted to do was help this program have success and I feel like I’ve done that in my final year,” said Bahamonde, who reflected on what the championship meant to her and the fellow seniors. “We’ll always be a part of it. It’s something that can’t be taken away.”
Leave a Reply.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin