After the girls volleyball season appeared to be on the brink of cancellation due to Department of Public Health recommendations, the season is back on as players and coaches will be masked when the action begins on Thursday.
Regionalized scheduling means this year will be loaded with battles between local teams, including the usual Bristol battle between the Lancers and Rams, and while Central certainly took a big step forward last year, Eastern remains a dominant force that will again be among the best in the state.
Here is the outlook for each area team as the new-look 2020 season gets set to begin:
Head coach: Stefanie Reay, 2nd season
Last year: 20-0, lost in Class L quarterfinals
Key losses: Rebecca Bender (Libero), Brooke Dorsio (Outside Hitter) and Ariana Caucci (Opposite/Right Side Hitter)
Key returnees: Zoe Lowe (Senior; Outside Hitter); Ryley Plourde (Senior; Middle Hitter); Leah Chipman (Senior; Setter); Hannah Webber (Junior; Middle Hitter)
Possible newcomers to watch: Sage Scarritt (Senior; Opposite/Right Side Hitter); Lucy Winiarski (Senior; Defensive Specialist/Libero); Emma Rodjenski (Senior; Outside Hitter)
Outlook: Losing an anchor like Bender hurts, but Eastern returns a fearsome trio as good as any in the state in Lowe, Plourde and Chipman, all of whom were on this year’s All-American watch list. It will be a unique season for sure, but one thing that likely won’t change will be Eastern dominating opponents.
“The girls are happy to be back on the court, and are working hard, understanding that things can change any minute in our current environment,” Reay said. “They are making the most of the time they have together, giving 100 percent all the time, and leaving the gym every day with no regrets. Whatever the year brings, these girls are ready to meet every challenge head-on.”
Head coach: Lance Pepper (2nd season)
Last year: Record 17-6, lost in Class L quarterfinals
Key Graduates: Peyton Greger OH, Kat Ross MB, Ashleigh Clark S
Key Returnees: Emily Ericson, Brooke Soucy, Jadyn Bauer, Gwen Toresso, Kayla St. Onge, Destiney Potter
Possible Newcomers to watch: Amariana Anthony, Destinee Craft, Samantha Sklenka, Maddie Lodovico
Outlook: The Rams were a very strong team last season, even pushing rival Bristol Eastern to the brink of defeat, and this year should give the team an opportunity to continue to build into a contender, as the regionalized schedule gives them plenty of quality competiton.
“We’re looking to building off of last year’s momentum with a strong schedule full of tough opponents,” Pepper said. “Goals for the year are to take it one point at a time and ensure we leave the floor every night knowing that we have given it our all. Looking forward to seeing the team continue to gel and grow throughout the course of the season.”
Head coach: Michelle Abraham (34th season)
Last year: 12-8, lost in first round of Class LL state tournament
Key losses: Raven Jarrett, Nataly Hernandez, Anyerina Lugo, Abria McDonald
Key returnees: Wendely Garcia, Maya Slisz, Kiana Ruiz, Maleah Echevarria, Tori Lambert, Kelly-Alice Alape, Natalia Kownacki, Audrey Belliveau
Outlook: The Hurricanes’ toughest loss to graduation is likely Jarrett, who was once again recognized as an All-State talent last season. Hernandez and Lugo are two all-conference selections that need to be replaced, but fortunately, and all-conference selection in Belliveau will be back for New Britain, a team that always finds a way to be competitive under Abraham.
Head coach: Angie Kumm (3rd season)
Last year: 9-11, lost in second round of Class M state tournament
Key losses: Lyzi Litwinko, Alexis Kumm, Jordan Barber, Sydney Duke
Key returnees: Madison Symolon, Marissa Barile, Briana Dastoli, Makayla Gorski, Julia Oakes, Jesscia Boucher, Skye Smith, Kylie Lanteri, Julia Paul
Outlook: The Redcoats say goodbye to their only two all-conference selections from last year in Litwinko and Kumm, but they still return a load of experience, including seven seniors on their varsity roster. A regionalized schedule means Berlin can avoid tough opponents like the Bristols and Simsbury this year, but it will still have to figure out teams like Platt, which it won just one set against in two matches last year.
Head coach: Kelly Andrews
Last year: 15-5, lost in first round of Class LL state tournament
Key losses: Erica Paradis, Amaia Jackson, Jola Bufi, Carelys Benitez, Sara Caceres
Key returnees: Michaela Lyons, Madison Massaro-Cook, Amanada Akerley, Emilia Dugas, Julia Germano, Tori Tolisano, Diana Silwinski, Gabriella Caceres, Hannah DeMarco, Caitlin Devanney
Outlook: Newington loses three of its four all-conference selections from last year, but brings back a big one in Massaro-Cook, who led the team with 164 kills last year, 50 more than the next highest player on the roster. She also had a team-best 38.8 kill percentage, and will unquestionably be the team’s leader as it looks to put together another winning season.
Head coach: Bob Moffo (4th season)
Last year: 4-16
Key losses: Mackenzie Alvarado, Simona Babagallo, Makayla Caron, Margaret Cronkhite, Olivia Gajor, Kaylie Hall, Emily Savage, Katherine Tanguay, Vanessa Xiques, Olivia Wazorko
Key returnees: Kaitlyn Gagnon, Hannah Peck, Annie Roux, Valerie Simoneau
Outlook: Last year’s record doesn’t inspire much in terms of strictly numbers, but it actually represents a consistent climb for the Blue Devils, who went winless in 2017, then won two matches in 2019. Can Moffo continue this climb in 2020 and get Plainville back closer to the 20-win team it was in 2016?
Head coach: Richard Heitz (20th season)
Last year: 10-11
Key losses: Brooke Cooney (OH), Katie Gundersen (OH), Mackenzie Coppola (S), Era Pasha (L), Katie D’Agostino (RS) and Bella Myrick (DS/L)
Key Returnees: Rachel Possidento (Sr, MH), Kayli Garcia (Sr, MH), Veronika Gorski (Sr, MH/RS), Kayley Smith (Sr, L) and Victoria Zajda (Sr, S)
Possible newcomers to watch: Morgan Birdsey (JR), Jackie Dobransky (SO), Emma Pfanzeldt (SO) and Haley Weiner (SO)
Outlook: While losing a lot of offense, the Blue Knights do return all-conference middle hitter Rachel Possidento as well as some strong serving, but they will need to make up for the unexpected loss of 6-foot senior Veronika Gorski, who will be out with injury. As a result, Heitz will be looking for his sophomore class to make an immediate impact.
Head coach: Belen Michelis (5th season)
Last year: 3-12
Key losses: Abigail DellaVecchia, Emily Allensworth
Key returnees: Jessie Valentine, Taylor Barnett, Tiffany Pires, Isabella Bergeron
Outlook: The Kangaroos were young and new last year, which showed on paper as the team dropped from 14 wins in 2018 to just three last year. But that means that young team is now one year older and one year wiser, and will be looking to make a big step forward in 2020.
Head coach: Devin Pecevich (3rd season)
Last year: 13-7, lost in second round of Class S state tournament
Key losses: Eleanor Casner, Alexis Carabetta, Olivia Genovese, Megan Fortier, Grace Carabetta, Emily Esposito, Ava Dunleavy, Kelsi Blatchley
Key returnees: Greta Panke, Maddie Pendergast, Katie Darragiati, Keira Dubitsky, Emily Shanahan, Megan Crean, Annie Kretcsh
Outlook: The loss of the Carabettas will be tough to weather, as Alexis finished last year picked up 420 assists and 80 service aces last year, while Grace had 320 digs. This team comes into the new season with just one senior, so the Falcons will be young but still looking to compete, and they have recent experience with young teams, like the 2018 squad that won 12 matches.
Head Coach: Joe Granja (2nd season)
Last year: 19-4 overall (CTC Champions)
Key losses: Ada Guzman outside hitter (1st team all-conference), setter Aiyana Montes, outside hitter Korina Trammell
Key Returnees: Nathalie Delarosa, Nyssa Foster DeOro, Tabetha Trammell
Outlook: Granja’s group gave the Gladiators one of their most memorable seasons ever with a conference championship last year, but they will have to make up for the loss of Guzman, a first team all-conference selection in 2019. But bringing back Delarosa, Foster DeOro and Trammell on the front line should keep Goodwin Tech competitive this season.
Head coach: Matt Lance (7th season)
Record: 11-11 (including postseason)
Key Graduates: Setter Molly Corcoran, Libero Kenia Hernandez, Outside Hitters Victoria Merced and Keshliani Hidalgo
Key Returnees: Leeneysha Vargas, Yoanetsi Torres, Patrice Broughton (Middle blocker), Katherine Palombizio
Possible Newcomers to Watch: Ciara Cardona, Tynise Rose
Outlook: This Innovation team is young, and its roster will certainly reflect the new look that the sport as a whole will have in Connecticut this season.
“With a lot of younger players stepping up to the varsity level and returning players competing in new positions, Innovation will have a lot of new faces on the floor this season,” Lance said. “As in years past, the team will maintain its identity as a scrappy defensive team.”