As Bristol Central gets set to kick off their season opener Thursday night, the team will be relying on their experience from last year to propel them to success.
Last year, the Rams finished 15-8, losing in the first round of the Central Connecticut Conference tournament and in the second round of the Class LL state tournament to the eventual state champs Greenwich.
This season the Rams will be competing in Class L. However, Eastern Coach Lance Pepper said with five of his seven starters from last year returning, it gives them needed experience to compete at a high level.
“Whenever you have the majority of your starters returning you can pick up where you left off and continue to build from there,” Pepper said. “I told the girls with a good portion of our starters returning the expectation is only going to get bigger.”
Pepper said coming into this season he has seen a difference in his players. He said after getting knocked out in the first round of the CCC’s the team has a chip on their shoulder and it’s a mentality that they took into the offseason.
“We’re working in the gym, staying focused and staying disciplined,” he said. “I’m pleased with where we’re at. Of course we have a long way to go as any team, but I think they’re starting to gel a whole lot better and I think it's a testament to how hard the kids work in the summer.”
The goal for the Rams this season is to go further than they did last year.
Pepper said the weakest link from last season came down to consistency as well as their volleyball IQ, but with seniors Olivia Clingan, Deana Prowell, Madison Lodovico, Samantha Sklenka and Brooke Valentino returning, the knowledge they brought back gives Bristol Central a better starting point.
Clingan said this season is less about teaching and learning the fundamentals. She said it's more about adding new skills and techniques to their game in order to be more efficient.
The seniors collectively agreed that they left last season unsatisfied.
“I think we have had a very productive preseason and I think we’re going into this season with very high hopes knowing that we can do very well,” Lodovico said. “We all put in the work in the offseason and it’s very visible when we're playing together.”
With the difficulty of the conference Pepper said the team will go as far as the team wants it to go. He said this season is about what kind of legacy the seniors want to leave behind.