Ashleigh Clark, a sophomore setter for the Bristol Central girls volleyball team, and Lyle Winiarski, a senior forward for the Bristol Eastern boys soccer team, share “Athlete of the Week” honors with regards to area scholastic sports.
Clark, the daughter of Carrie and Chris Clark, has been a leader in each of the Rams’ (5-2) games entering this week. Surprisingly, her best game statistically may have been in a 3-1 loss to Conard, where she had 27 assists and five digs. She’s consistently in double figures in assists in helping or leading the way for coach Holly Willette.
“We struggled with our serve receive and dug ourselves a few holes but we never gave up, played aggressively the whole time,” Willette said following Central’s match against the Chieftains. “Ashleigh Clark ran a great offense and is really starting to connect with hitters.”
Last year Bristol Central went 6-12 overall, but this year should be much better.
“I think we’ve improved a lot from last year,” Clark said. “It’s becoming more fun, because I’m learning new plays. We want to make it to the tournament this year, last year we didn’t. I think we have a good chance.”
Individually, Clark added that the sport has brought out a competitive edge in her.
“I danced (first) and started sports in the fifth grade,” said Clark. “It’s taught me sportsmanship and I never realized how motivated and determined I could be until I started sports.”
Although she has also played other sports, volleyball is her favorite.
“I like how competitive it is,” said Clark. “There’s never down time, there’s always something to watch for, to anticipate. I love our team, it’s more like family.”
Her long term goals are to beat cross-town rival Bristol Eastern before graduating and go onto play at the Division II level.
Winiarski, the son of Michele and Thomas Winiarski, tallied four goals last Wednesday when the Lancers placed a 7-0 shutout on New Britain.
“He’s a dangerous player,” Eastern coach Bill Sweet said. “He’s very sharp and he finds the right spaces. Working with Jake Woznicki, I think they’ll combine for a bunch of goals here and there.”
The interesting part of it all is the fact that this is Winiarski’s first season as a forward.
“In his past he was a defender, one of our best as a sophomore,” said Sweet. “Last year, he played as a midfielder forward, but he was hurt.”
That injury was a torn labrum, which side-lined Winiarski for the last quarter of the season. Arthroscopic surgery and working hard to get back in the game, Winiarski is appreciative of being back on the field.
“It feel great to play as I wish,” Winiarski said.
With the Lancers entering this week with a record of 1-3, Winiarski said the team’s goal is to qualify for the state tournament, which it just missed last year. But the combination of Winiarski and Woznicki on offense should help.
“It’s nice playing with him, because we make a good team together,” Winiarski said. “We combine very well and strive on offensive plays on the attack. He’s a confident young man who will only get better as a player.”
And what has Winiarski gotten out of playing soccer?
“It’s opened up my eyes as to how far I can push myself, to see what I can do,” said Winiarski. “It’s taught me that obstacles will come, but hard work will get you through.”
He also added that playing at the high school level has given him a chance to give back and that was at the Bristol Soccer Club recently when he and his teammates had the opportunity to play with those who do TOPSoccer, a program for youngsters with special needs.