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No. 3 RHAM ousts Fitch in Class L volleyball quarters

Hebron — The story of the Fitch High School volleyball season was written long before Saturday's 3-0 Class L state tournament quarterfinal loss against RHAM.

The story began with Fitch, in tears, on the bench one day. It began with a group of players that were so nice they weren't competing at the level coach Steve Banks would have hoped.

"I told them, 'I'm tired of hearing we're nice girls,'" Banks said. "I want warriors getting on the bus. I knew we had talent, it was just a matter of getting that edge. I was happy (at the turnaround). I was relieved."

Fitch went on to win nine straight, beating state power Guilford, beating Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I tournament top seed Woodstock Academy, reaching the ECC championship game before breaking the streak against Waterford.

The season came to end for the No. 11 Falcons on Saturday with a 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 loss to No. 3 RHAM, which reached the semifinals or better for the 13th consecutive season. RHAM has won seven state titles since 2007, including back-to-back Class L championships in 2016 and 2017.

"I'm kind of sad, but it's OK," said Fitch senior Nora Ryan, who was the first freshman to play at the varsity level for Banks when she arrived in the program four seasons ago. "They're very solid. They're a very smart and solid team."

Ryan, a 6-foot middle hitter and a second team all-state selection last season, finished her final match with 15 kills and 11 digs. She's one of the nicest of them all, too, and laughed when she asked if she'd like to be known as a "nice girl."

"I hope so," she said.

About getting meaner?

"We all just had a bunch of pasta parties," Ryan said. "We're friends outside of volleyball and that helps us in volleyball. It makes us all play better. I don't know, I guess I'm pretty competitive; I want the team to do well together."

Karly Morales finished with 25 assists, Marlo Sim nine digs and Nyseanah Ishmael eight kills for Fitch (18-7).

Katharine Santella had 33 assists for Central Connecticut Conference tournament champion RHAM (22-1), which moved on to play No. 2 Avon in the semifinals Wednesday at a site and time to be announced. Hannah Mullaney had 15 kills, freshman Keira Sullivan eight kills and 17 digs, Gabriella Johnson five kills and 17 digs and Kaylin Hadley seven kills, as RHAM showed a great deal of depth in its firepower.

Banks thought Fitch should have played better — "we shot ourselves in the foot too many times with missed serves," the coach said.

"You have to play a flawless match against them and we didn't do that tonight," Banks said. "We kept fighting back, kept fighting back, but we kept digging holes all the time. It's not that we were overmatched."

Banks called dragging the competitiveness out of the team the toughest part of the season, but he couldn't prouder of how far the Falcons have come.

"The last two practices have been awesome," Banks said. "I told Tim (Guernsey, RHAM coach) before the match, 'we have the best practice team in the state.'"



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