Fairfield co-op volleyball advances to Class L quarters

It had been five years since the Fairfield co-op volleyball team had won a state-tournament match.

And though it received more of a challenge than it originally expected, Fairfield got the monkey off its back.

Led by Emilio Renzulli's 13 kills, 11 service points and five digs, the fifth-seeded Fairfield co-op volleyball team rolled No. 12 East Hartford 3-0 (25-13, 25-23, 25-15) in Tuesday's Class L first round at Fairfield Warde High School.

"We worked hard the whole season to get to this point," Renzulli said. "I'm glad we came out with a win today."

Chris Sanfilippo added six service points and 10 digs, and Josh Dow had five kills and three blocks, as Fairfield improved to 16-4.

Fairfield has not advanced to the quarters since 2009, and had not won a state tournament match since its 3-2 first-round match at Cheshire in 2008.

"This is the farthest I've gotten since I started," Sanfilippo said. "I'm very excited."

After falling in game 1, East Hartford battled back in game 2, taking a 7-4 lead from the outset. A litany of service errors and an energy dip helped the Hornets lead 23-22 after Robert Swain's kill.

"We played game 2 very tentatively,"Fairfield coach Garrett Covino said. "We lost focus at the service line with five service errors in game 2, and that really hurt us."

But Renzulli recorded two kills, including a game-capping one that sent Fairfield to a 25-23 victory.

"We picked it back up in the end," Renzulli said, "and finished it off right."

Led by Renzulli's serving, Fairfield cruised through game 1. After the Hornets built a 6-3 lead, the senior registered 11 straight points, sending Fairfield to an insurmountable 13-6 lead.

"I just went back and knew what I had to do," Renzulli said. "I've had that same serve all year, and it's progressed the whole season."

Fairfield registered 14 of 15 points, as Tim Beradino's long service run peaked Fairfield's edge at 17-7. Brandon Lopes' ace capped Fairfield's 25-13 win.

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The teams were deadlocked at 6 in game 3, but Fairfield methodically pulled away. Eric Thompson's three-point run put Fairfield ahead for good, as two three straight Hornets errors set Fairfield to a 9-6 advantage.

"Our defense picked up," Sanfilippo said. "As a unit, we were playing well together."

Sanfilippo's five-point service run enhanced Fairfield's lead to 20-12, and Lopes' final kill sealed game 3, 25-15.

"It was nice to see us stay focused all the way through," Covino said, "and not only come away with the win but play pretty well."

ppickens@bcnnew.com; twitter.com/Pat_Pickens

EAST HARTFORD13 23 15-- 0

FAIRFIELD 25 25 25-- 3

Records-- EH: 10-9; F: 16-4.