2022 CIAC girls volleyball semifinal previews

Three defending state champions have been eliminated, but all four No. 1 seeds are still alive heading into the semifinals of the CIAC girls volleyball tournaments this week.

It's been eight years since all four top seeds have reached the state finals, and three of those teams won championships. This year's top seeds feature two unbeatens - Darien (Class LL) and Joel Barlow (Class L) - Seymour, last year's Class M runner-up, and Griswold (Class S), which is seeking its first state championship.

Three conference finals rematches are still on the table, with the FCIAC's Darien and Trumbull in Class LL, the NVL's Seymour and Woodland in Class M, and the Shoreline's Hale Ray and East Hampton in Class S.

Here's a look at the semifinals, which will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday: 

CLASS LL

No. 5 Southington(22-2) vs. No. 1 Darien (22-0)

at Bunnell, Wednesday, 6 p.m.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Southington: Def. Stamford 3-0; Warde 3-0; Staples 3-0.

Darien: Bye; Def. Ludlowe 3-1; Greenwich 3-0.

OUTLOOK

Darien defeated Greenwich in the quarterfinals on Monday and became the fourth No. 1 seed to advance to the state semifinals this year. The 2014 season which featured all four No. 1 seeds in the finals was also the last time the Blue Wave won a state championship. Unbeaten Darien, which has dropped just four sets, is loaded, led by seniors Leilani Gillespie and Jillian Roche, and juniors Ellie and Aubrey Moore. Southington is facing its fourth straight FCIAC team, having shut out Stamford, Warde and Staples in the first three rounds. The Blue Knights feature a standout setter in senior Haley Weiner and several hitting weapons, including junior Cami Wessels.

No. 14 Trumbull (19-7) vs. No. 7 Amity (21-4)

at Jonathan Law, Wednesday, 6 p.m.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Trumbull: Def. West Haven 3-0; Simsbury 3-1; Brien McMahon 3-0.

Amity: Def. Hall 3-0; Newtown 3-2; Cheshire 3-2.

OUTLOOK

What a difference a week makes for Amity, which gained revenge for its SCC final loss to Cheshire on Nov. 5 by rallying for a 3-2 win over the Rams in Saturday’s quarterfinals. The Spartans are battle-tested with their last two matches, including a second-round win over Newtown, going the full five sets. Trumbull was also a runner-up in its conference tournament, as Darien rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat the Eagles in five sets. Led by UConn-bound setter Maggie Carley, Trumbull has won 10 of its last 11 matches and has looked strong during the postseason.

CLASS L

No. 12 Woodstock Academy (15-9) vs. No. 1 Joel Barlow (22-0)

at SMSA, Wednesday, 6 p.m.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Woodstock Academy: Def. Brookfield 3-0; Guilford 3-1; Pomperaug 3-0.

Joel Barlow: Bye; Def. Ellington 3-0; Platt 3-0.

OUTLOOK

Joel Barlow finally dropped a set when it defeated Newtown 3-1 in the SWC championship match, but the Falcons restarted the shutout streak with 3-0 wins over No. 17 Ellington and No. 8 Platt in Class L. Woodstock has played its way from the No. 12 seed to the semifinals. These two teams met for the 2018 Class L crown, with Barlow winning 3-2. The daughters of the coaches play prominent roles for both teams, with senior Emmy Asplund setting for coach Carol Conti-Asplund’s Barlow squad, and sophomore OH Lily Bottone leading coach Adam Bottone’s Centaurs in kills.

No. 7 Bristol Central (18-7) vs. No. 3 East Lyme (18-5)

at Cromwell, Wednesday, 6 p.m.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Bristol Central: Def. Ledyard 3-0; EO Smith 3-0; Suffield 3-1.

East Lyme: Bye; Def. Law 3-0; Bristol Eastern 3-0.

OUTLOOK

Bristol Central is one step away from its first CIAC finals berth after shutting out Ledyard and EO Smith, and knocking off No. 2 Suffield 3-1. The Rams ended the regular season by winning 11 of 12 matches. East Lyme appeared in three consecutive state finals from 2010 to 2012, but hasn’t been back since. The Vikings feature a top libero in junior Skylar Bell, who has racked up 435 digs in 25 matches. East Lyme defeated Bristol Central’s city rival, Bristol Eastern, in the quarterfinals.

CLASS M

No. 4 RHAM (22-3) vs. No. 1 Seymour (22-2)

at Plainville, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

RHAM: Bye; Def. Wolcott 3-0; Northwestern 3-0.

Seymour: Bye; Def. Weston 3-2; Granby 3-1.

OUTLOOK

Last year’s Class L champion RHAM has moved to Class M and will face top-seeded Seymour, last year’s Class M runner-up. The Raptors, who feature a few stars, including Ally Haldey and Lani Fecho, are the last defending state champion in this year’s tournaments. Seymour has had another remarkable season and is hunting its fourth straight Class M final appearance. The Wildcats survived a 3-2 second-round match against Weston in a rematch of last year’s final. Opposite hitter Ari Smith has had an outstanding senior season for the ’Cats

No. 11 Waterford (21-5) vs. No. 2 Woodland (23-2)

at Haddam-Killingworth, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Waterford: Def. Bacon Academy 3-2; Whitney Tech 3-0; Oxford 3-0.

Woodland: Bye; Def. Mercy 3-1; Nonnewaug 3-0.

OUTLOOK

The ECC champ versus the NVL champ. Woodland has won 13 straight since a 3-0 loss to top-seeded Seymour on Oct. 6, and that streak includes two victories over the Wildcats, 3-2 on Oct. 20 and 3-0 in the NVL final. The Hawks have reached the state finals twice, the last time coming in 2013 when they defeated Foran for their only title. Waterford, in its first season with coach Amanda Tourjee, claimed the ECC’s Div. I title 3-0 over Fitch with an MVP performance from junior Emerson Lane. The Lancers survived Bacon Academy 3-2 in the first round, but have pitched two shutouts since.

CLASS S

No. 4 East Hampton (20-2) vs. No. 1 Griswold (22-1)

at New London, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

East Hampton: Bye; Def. Haddam-Killingworth 3-0; Wheeler 3-0.

Griswold: Bye; Def. Windham 3-0; Lyman Memorial 3-1.

An unbeaten regular season nailed down the No. 1 seed for the Wolverines, who defeated three-time defending champion Lyman Memorial 3-1 in the quarterfinals. That also ended the Bulldogs’ run of six straight finals appearances. Led by senior setter Kuranda Ruggiero, who will play for Army next year, Griswold has never won a state championship. East Hampton captured the Shoreline crown over Hale Ray earlier this month, and has registered two straight shutouts to reach the semifinals.

No. 14 Coginchaug (15-9) vs. No. 2 Hale Ray (21-2)

at East Hampton, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Coginchaug: Def. Morgan 3-0; Wolcott Tech 3-0; SMSA 3-0.

Hale Ray: Bye; Def. Immaculate 3-0; Coventry 3-1.

OUTLOOK

An all-Shoreline battle. Hale Ray reached the state finals in 2016 and 2019, but fell to Lyman Memorial each time. The Noises could be looking at a rematch of the Shoreline final, if both they and East Hampton win on Tuesday. At No. 14, Coginchaug is the lowest remaining seed, tied with Trumbull in Class LL, and reached the semifinals via three shutouts. They faced Hale Ray twice during the regular season, with the Noises winning 3-1 and 3-2.

David.Stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports