BRISTOL - The term underdog excites the St. Paul girls volleyball team.
After all, the Falcons have been considered underdogs by most in recent memory.
“We like being underdogs and I love being an underdog,” St. Paul coach Devin Pecevich said. “People say that St. Paul doesn’t usually make it and they don’t finish games, but we’re starting to come together now.”
The Falcons have put together potentially the best season in school history with 16 wins, including an NVL Tournament first round win over Naugatuck. St. Paul lost to top seed Seymour in Monday’s NVL semifinals.
After winning just 14 matches over the two seasons prior to 2018, it’s been clear the program has changed under the first year head coach who had previously served as the junior varsity coach at the school for three seasons.
“He’s definitely helped us so much,” St. Paul senior Rebecca Nerbonne said. “He’s a really great coach and loves all of us. He makes sure everyone is good and helps us out a lot.”
The Falcons have been led by Greta Panke, Olivia Genovese, Alexis Carabetta, Grace Carabetta, Kelsi Blatchley and Nerbonne, among others.
All six have helped St. Paul (16-6) put together a season comparable to only its 2004 squad, which finished 13-5 in the regular season, earning the No. 4 seed in the Class S tournament - marking the first time the Falcons ever qualified for the state tournament. That team lost in the semifinals to top seed and eventual state champion Coventry.
This year’s group wants more and believes they’re capable of it.
“I definitely think we can make it to the finals,” Nerbonne said. “I think we’re very excited, we’re happy and we know we can do it, so we’re going to push ourselves and work hard to do it. This is definitely the year, we’re going to make history.”
It’s been a change for the program, but one that has the players fired up.
The change in mindset may have started before the Falcons’ first match against Watertown, which resulted in a 3-1 win for St. Paul.
“I think of all of us for St. Paul, we went through 10 years of just being in a low and all of us this year kind of had a really big drive and wanted to be different,” Blatchley said. “We obviously haven’t had a banner yet, we haven’t won a championship. And we really wanted to do that this year, to put our name on the map for the school and to just be an underdog and come up and make something of the St. Paul volleyball team.”
The confidence of the St. Paul players may be a product of a coach who believes his team is capable of anything this season.
“I definitely want more,” Pecevich said. “This season has definitely been successful and been awesome, but we definitely want to keep pushing and pushing and pushing. I’m happy where we’re at, but I know that we could be way up there and play even better.”