BRISTOL - The 2019 fall season sets up to be another successful one for area volleyball teams.
It will be headlined by a new start to the Bristol Central-Bristol Eastern rivalry with Lance Pepper replacing Central’s Holly Willette as head coach and Stefanie Grey supplanting Stacy Rivoira at Bristol Eastern.
Terryville will be looking to glow and rebuild, while St. Paul will be looking to potentially reach the state tournament for the second consecutive season.
Here is a closer look at each of the four area teams:
Head coach: Lance Pepper (first season)
Last year: 18-5
Key losses: Taylor Patnode, Amanda Warner
Key returnees: Ashleigh Clark, Peyton Greger, Kathryn Ross, Emily Erickson, Jadyn Bauer
Outlook: After reaching the second round of the state tournament last season, the Rams will be looking to build on that success against the likes of Southington, RHAM, Farmington and Bristol Eastern.
“After graduating only two players, [we] are looking to be a team to beat in the tough CCC,” Pepper said. “The team is a hard-working, dedicated group looking to get better each day.”
Head coach: Stefanie Grey (first season)
Last year: 20-4
Key losses: Alexandra DiMattia, Olivia Beaudoin, Gabriella Nozzolillo, Amber Blais, Aliana Rivoira
Key returnees: Brooke Dorsio, Zoe Lowe, Ryley Plourde, Ariana Caucci, Rebecca Bender, Emma Rodjenski, Lucy Winiarski
Outlook: It’s a new era for Lancers volleyball, as Grey takes over for longtime head coach Stacy Rivoira, who led Eastern to multiple state championships.
“Stacy and Gail Ericson have done an amazing job building a strong volleyball program with a winning tradition at Bristol Eastern and setting the stage for success for future Bristol Eastern volleyball teams, and we plan to carry that on,” Grey said. “Last year, we graduated five amazing seniors, but we have quite a few returning varsity players who all have great chemistry within themselves. With the rising players, I believe they have the potential to go far this season.”
The Lancers will be tested against Farmington, Southington and RHAM, “all of which are great programs and put up a tough fight ever year,” Grey said.
Head coach: Devin Pecevich (second season)
Last year: 12-4
Key losses: Rebecca Nerbonne
Key returnees: Alexis Carabetta, Kelsi Blatchley
Outlook: Last season was a historic one for the St. Paul volleyball team.
Keyed by big playmakers such as starting middle hitter Nerbonne, the Falcons reached the state tournament for just the second time in program history after not having reached the postseason in more than 10 years.
Even with a young team, the Falcons are hoping for more of the same in 2019.
“This season, we’re going to take it game by game and play with intensity and passion,” Pecevich said. “We would love to make the state tournament again this year. … Because our team was young last year, we’re hoping that our experience in big games will help us become more successful as a team.”
Head coach: Belen Michelis (fourth season)
Last year: 14-10
Key losses: Hailey Marin (setter), Cara Andrews (outside hitter), Kristine Gutierrez (outside hitter), Lauren Jacobs (middle hitter)
Key returnees: Tiffany Pires (junior), Abigail Dellavecchia (senior), Jessie Valenti (junior)
Outlook: Behind Pires, Dellavecchia and Valenti, this season projects to be one of growth and rebuild for the Kangaroos.
“This year we have several new players who will be spreading their wings on varsity, and with that comes a level of growth,” Michelis said. “I know that these players have such passion and love for the game that they will work to improve their skill sets and will always give 110 percent. Terryville had always had such passionate players, and this year the ‘Roos will demonstrate that.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org