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East Haven - Kayla Fobian was asked what she thought the first time she saw Bristol Eastern and its assortment of tall hitters Saturday.
"Well, there's a little bit of intimidation there when you have to look straight up to see them," Fobian, an East Lyme senior, said with a laugh. "But you couldn't let it get to you."
The smaller Vikings had little margin for error and would have to play smart and feisty to win their third straight Class L state volleyball championship.
The Lancers had the tenacity to match their size, however, and defeated East Lyme 25-12, 25-21, 25-20 at East Haven High School.
"You have to give Bristol Eastern credit," East Lyme coach Jack Biggs said. "One, they have the blockers. Two, they're very scrappy. And three, they served very well tonight. They served hard and aggressive and it showed. It took us out of our system."
It was the fifth state title for the second-seeded Lancers (23-1).
"If we wanted to win tonight, we had to come out and play our best game," Vikings senior Jillian Bartlett said. "We didn't play our best, but props to their offense. They killed it."
Fobian said, "I'm proud of every single person on this team. Yeah, we didn't have a lot of height, but every girl had heart on this team."
No. 4 East Lyme finished 21-4.
"These girls, most of them didn't even have a chance to play last year," Biggs said. "So for them to put up 21 wins in a season is pretty amazing. And I told them, 'Don't let one match define what we were able to accomplish this year.' Hopefully they hold their heads high and remember all the fun things that happened this year."
Bartlett had 19 assists for East Lyme, while Fobian had nine kills. Senior Devin Perez added seven kills and two blocks and classmate Emily Ennis added two aces.
"The seniors, they came into this game for the third year in a row," Biggs said. "Some girls never get a shot at coming here once. Some guys coach 30 years and never get to a state championship. That's something to be proud of."
Karissa Smith, a 5-foot-11 senior, had a match-high 11 kills for Eastern and was named the game's MVP.
Cheyenne Orsi, a 6-3 junior, had six blocks and five kills for the Lancers. Sophomore Brianna Root had 23 assists.
"They have a lot of athleticism, they have a lot of heart, they have great chemistry and height on top of it," Lancers coach Stacy Rivoira said. "The combination of those makes them excel at what they do."
Fobian said, "We played people that tall before. It puts a little more pressure (on you) because you just can't go up and kill the ball. You have to worry about where you're killing it because they can get up there and block it."
Eastern went on a five-point run to take an early 12-6 lead in Game 1.
East Lyme took a 6-2 lead in the second game, but couldn't sustain it. The Lancers countered with a six-point run and never trailed again.
The Vikings scored the first three points of the final game, but once again, Eastern came back and took control.
"Even though we lost, I look at this and how we made it so far," Bartlett said. "Second place is never bad. I'm definitely proud of this team.
"I'm upset right now, but I'm definitely proud of us."