By JOSH KAUFMANN
Imposing as the undefeated No. 1 seed, Essex’s size and athleticism were what doomed Champlain Valley Union’s valiant and intense effort to win the rivals’ third straight finals meeting.
The Redhawks had won the inaugural Vermont Principals Association girls volleyball tournament over Essex, and were looking to avenge the Hornets’ 2018 finals win over CVU. The second-seed Hawks got the start they were hoping for, but their four straight points to open the championship doubleheader at Ross Sports Center didn’t make Essex blink.
“I told them not to worry if they’re down early. Just keep fighting,” Essex coach Jen Ligouri said. “And we did that.”
CVU’s only loss in a 13-1 regular season was a 3-1 decision at home to Essex on Oct. 11. The hot start only helped keep things close in the first set, a 25-20 Hornet win that was followed by 25-14 and 25-17 Essex victories for the title.
The Redhawks’ top blockers held their own against Essex’s imposing senior Madeline Folsom and freshman Jazmin Munson. But the Hornets’ ability to rotate in Jessica Rose, Rachel Yandow, Amanda Lyon, and Elizabeth Goodrich had walls popping up everywhere CVU tried to attack.
They did a really good job establishing their block, and that was really hard to get around,” CVU coach Jeanne Nauheimer said. “It’s a really good block. They just played really well.
“Our girls were there fighting tooth and nail. I think there were a couple of unfortunate moments when we couldn’t get a point and get the serve back.”
Essex finished off a perfect 17-0 season with just two sets lost, one of them to the Redhawks three weeks earlier. CVU finishes 14-2, undefeated against the rest of the state.
It was the third Essex-CVU finals matchup in as many years of the sports’ varsity status. CVU took the 2016 title 3-2, and Essex won 3-1 a year ago.
“I’m so proud of how far both these programs have come,” Nauheimer said. “I expected to see Essex at its best today, and my girls worked hard to try to match it. Today wasn’t their day. But I’m excited to go to work next season and see where we come out.”