Fermi boys' volleyball team falls just short of state final

By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., Jun. 7, 2012
Senior captain Josh Cheney follows through on a kill during the second set. Photos by Colin. Rajala.
Senior captain Josh Cheney follows through on a kill during the second set. Photos by Colin. Rajala.

Coming into the 2012 season, the Enrico Fermi High School boys' volleyball team had one goal and one goal only: making it to the Class M state championship game for the first time in school history and winning the school’s first state volleyball title. The third-seeded Fermi Falcons (16-4) fell just short of that goal, falling to the second-seed Oxford Wolverines (17-3) in five sets (25-18, 33-31, 20-25, 22-25, 11-15) on June 5 at Southington High School. The semi-final loss was all too familiar for the Falcons, as they advanced to the 2011 Class M semi-final, their first Final Four berth in school history, before being swept by eventual champion Darien.

“The bus ride to the semi-final last year was longer than the game itself,” said Fermi head coach Alexandra Pyznar. “This year they had a chance to win it, and that made all the difference in today’s game. They busted their butts in the first two games, but it’s tough after those last two losses to come back and have to win the third. They just couldn’t pick their heads up.”

Fermi took the first set in dominating fashion, jumping out to an early 13-8 lead and extending the lead to seven at 19-12. The Falcons closed out the first game with their biggest lead of the game at 25-18 on a kill by senior Greg Zaylor.

In the second set, Fermi and Oxford battled back and forth for the entire match, with Oxford’s biggest lead being four at 16-12 and Fermi’s biggest lead being three at 23-20. Fermi could not finish Oxford off, as the Wolverines extended the game past 25 points. Neither team could get the upper hand going through seven match points before the Falcons triumphed on the eighth, winning 33-31 behind two kills from senior captain Josh Cheney down the stretch.

The Wolverines would have to go the hard route to win the match after falling into the 2-0 hole. Oxford got the ball rolling by winning the third set 25-20. “They were tired after that but I think it just fired them up a little more,” Pyznar said. “I honestly thought, all right, that third game we’ll let it go. Let’s take the fourth game and be done, but Oxford came out ready to go and answered us late.”

In the fourth set, the teams battled back and forth before Oxford seized the momentum at 22-22, taking three consecutive points to knot the match up at two games apiece. The fifth and decisive set saw two consecutive Fermi kill attempts land just out of bounds, giving Oxford a 5-2 lead. With the momentum completely on Oxford’s side, their lead ballooned to 9-3, 12-5 and 14-6. Fermi would make a late run, scoring five consecutive points, riding the serve of senior captain Cody Brown and drawing the game to 14-11, but an Oxford kill sealed the game and Fermi’s fate at 15-11.

The Wolverines were led by junior Bobby Costigan’s 29 kills and seven digs. Oxford also received strong contributions from a duo of sophomores: Pat Cragan, 47 assists and 20 digs, and Eric Jensen, 17 kills and 10 blocks.

Fermi was led by Zaylor, who recorded 20 kills, 14 digs and four blocks; while Cheney added 16 kills, 11 digs and six blocks. Brown also contributed for the Falcons with 45 assists, six kills and four digs.

“This is it for them; they are all seniors and they are graduating,” Pyznar said. “They were an amazing team and they had a great run. They wanted to win the championship and put in the work for it. I wanted the championship so bad for them. It’s going to be sad to see them leave.”

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