SHELTON - The Cinderella story for the Oxford High School boys volleyball team came to an end Friday night when Newington High defeated the Wolverines in four sets to claim the Class M state championship at Shelton High School.
Newington earned the 3-1 victory by scores of 25-20, 18-25, 25-23 and 25-17. But at the end of the day, the game was about more than the final score for Oxford: it was about putting the Wolverines in a conversation about the best boys volleyball programs in the state.
In just its fourth season of varsity volleyball, the young OHS squad of mostly sophomores and juniors proved it belongs in that discussion as the team claimed a South-West Conference title a few weeks ago and advanced, against all odds, to Friday night's championship game.
"We showed a lot of character all season," said junior Captain Rob Costigan. "We came a long way since the first game of the season. It took a lot of pride, it took a lot of heart."
And it took a lot of character to act the way the Wolverines did following Friday's defeat. Though clearly disappointed, the players congratulated the Newington squad with sincerity and accepted their second place medals with pride.
"I wouldn't trade any of these kids for any amount of state titles," said Oxford Head Coach Jeff Giovacchino. "These are just the greatest group of kids I've ever been around; I just can't say enough about them."
His team's character showed in the postseason.
In the SWC championship, Oxford found itself down 24-18 in the first set to Joel Barlow, but ultimately won that set 32-30 and then won the match 3-1 for the title. In the Class M semifinal game this week, Oxford trailed 2-0 to Enrico Fermi High School before rattling off three straight games to advance to Friday night. And many thought the Wolverines wouldn't keep it close against Newington, but Oxford was competitive in all four games on Friday.
This was a team that, just four years ago, was simply trying to get in the win column.
"Every year, coach would set low goals for us," said senior Captain J.T. VanKamerik. "The first year, it was to win a game. Last year, it was make it farther in states than we did the year before. Unfortunately, we came up a little short, but we were here. We gave it our all out there."
And while a silver medal is nice, Oxford (17-4 on the season) already has visions of gold for next year.
"The (players) know that this was a great run for us, but they know maybe this is just the beginning of an established program," Giovacchino said. "Before the season, coming in, nobody knew Oxford volleyball. So hopefully now we're on the map, and we've gotta' live up to that expectation. ...I look forward to maybe being here next year and hopefully taking that next step."
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2012 Oxford Volleyball Roster
1. Nisal Hewathanthri - Captain
2. John Fernandes
3. Nick Greenhouse
5. Pat Cragan
8. Zach Antonio
9. Rob Costigan - Captain
10. Ed Carver
12. Jordan Wisniewski
16. Nate Seibert
17. J.T. VanKamerik - Captain
18. Eric Jensen
19. Jason Mraz
34. Kevin Shumitz
40. Josh Thorne