Season Preview: Area girls volleyball teams expect to contend once again

Published on Tuesday, 10 September 2019 17:15
Written by RYAN CHICHESTER

@ryanchichester1

The local area was filled with competitive girls volleyball teams last season, and the new season shouldn’t be much different.

Six of the seven local squads reached their respective state tournaments in 2018, and will be hungry to get back this November. Plainville will likely continue its rebuild, but every other team should be watched closely as state tournaments draw closer.

Here is a closer look at each team:

NEW BRITAIN

Head coach: Michelle Abraham (33rd season)

Last year: 15-5 (lost in first round of Class LL state tournament)

Key losses: N/A

Key returnees: Raven-Symone Jarrett (senior), Anyerina Lugo (senior), Nataly Hernandez (senior), Audrey Belliveau (junior), Abria McDonald (senior), Maleah Echevarria (junior)

Outlook: After two straight early exits from the state tournament, the Hurricanes are looking to make a deep run with a wealth of returning starters, including Second-Team All-State selection Raven-Symone Jarrett, who logged 281 kills and 174 digs last season.

Jarrett will lead the way for New Britain, but the Hurricanes have other impact performers in Anyerina Lugo and Nataly Hernandez, both of whom were all-conference players with Jarrett last season. While New Britain brings a lot of firepower back, it also lost four starters, and a tough conference will put this returning group to the test.

BERLIN

Head coach: Angie Kumm (2nd season)

Last year: 13-7 (lost in first round of Class M tournament)

Key losses: Bella Nardi (outside hitter), Michelle Matug (outside hitter)

Key returnees: Lyzi Litwinko (senior, outside hitter), Jordan Barber (senior, setter), Alexis Kumm (senior, middle hitter), Cassie Parmelee (junior, outside hitter)

Possible newcomers to watch: Jessica Boucher

Outlook: Angie Kumm improved the Redcoats in the win column in her first season as head coach, but Berlin was defeated in the first round of the state tournament for the second straight season, losing in an upset to No. 18 Weston at home. The loss was the last for all-conference outside hitter Bella Nardi in a Redcoats uniform, and with another outside hitter in Michelle Matug having graduated, Berlin will have to replace a lot of talent on the outside.

Fortunately, the middle of the court is in good hands with all-conference middle hitter Alexis Kumm returning for her senior season, as is setter Jordan Barber. The Redcoats hope to make it back to the state tournament, but this time, they’re hoping to notch a victory and avoid another early exit.

NEWINGTON

Head coach: Chris Wanner (4th season)

Last year: 14-8 (lost in first round of Class L tournament)

Key losses: Rashelle Mezquia (libero), Azya Bass (setter), Alayshia Hall (outside hitter)

Key returnees: Carelys Benitez (senior, libero), Madison Massaro-Cook (junior, middle hitter), Sara Caceres (senior, server)

Outlook: Always competitive, the Indians expect to have another successful season under Chris Wanner. They lost a pair of all-conference talents in Azya Bass and Alayshia Hall, but they also bring two back in senior Carelys Benitez and junior Madison Massaro-Cook, so don’t expect too much of a drop-off from Newington this year.

The Indians once again have a tough schedule that includes opponents like Southington, Farmington and RHAM, but the schedule was a concern for Wanner heading into last season, and her team responded with 14 wins. This established program could be heading back to the state tournament this fall.

SOUTHINGTON

Head coach: Richard Heitz (19th season)

Last year: 21-2 (lost in Class LL state tournament semifinals)

Key losses: Haley Larrabee, Lynsey Danko, Jenna Martin

Key returnees: Brooke Cooney (senior), Veronika Gorski (junior), Katherine Grundersen (senior), Rachel Possidento (junior), Era Pasha (senior), Kayli Garcia (junior), Katherine D’Agostino (senior)

Outlooks: The resume of head coach Richard Heitz speaks for itself, having compiled a 315-87 career record, but this upcoming season will be especially challenging, at least if the Blue Knights are hoping to return to their 2018 form, which included the top overall seed in the Class LL state tournament and a trip to the semifinals.

All three of the team’s all-conference selections graduated this past June, and they leave behind critical holes that need to be filled. Fortunately for Heitz, a wealth of talent returns as well, including two-year starter Brooke Cooney, who logged 185 kills. Junior Veronika Gorski will make an impact as well after leading the team in hitting percentage last season. Sure, Southington lost a lot of top-notch talent, but the Blue Knights are an established program that figures to be right back in the state tournament this season.

PLAINVILLE

Head coach: Bill Moffo (3rd season)

Last year: 2-18

Key losses: Alyssa Roy, Victoria Corriveau, Natalia Boltromiejuk

Expected key returnees: Kate Tanguay (senior)

Outlook: After a 0-20 season in 2017, Bill Moffo saw an improved squad take the court last season. The Blue Devils will likely spend this season looking for similar improvements, though the rebuild is still very much in progress. A core of seniors departed, but plenty of young players will get a look this fall. Plainville’s 20-win campaign in 2016 seems like a long time ago, and it will be a long road back, but it starts with this year’s group.

GOODWIN TECH

Head coach: Cristina Stisser (2nd season)

Last year: 12-8 (lost in second round of Class S tournament)

Key Losses: Tiana Rodriguez, Joarylis Pino Martinez, Soannie Arroyo

Expected key returnees: Ada Guzman

Outlook: Cristina Stisser took over for Paul Soucy as head coach last year, and put together another winning season for the Gladiators that included a second straight trip to the second round of the Class S tournament.

Like last offseason, Goodwin Tech will have to make up for a lot of lost talent if it wants to win another state tournament match. This year, the Gladiators will be without 2017 All-CTC selection Tiana Rodriguez and 2018 All-CTC winner Joarylis Pino Martinez, but they do return Ada Guzman for her senior season, and she will be looking for a second straight all-conference honor. Guzman will be the leader for Goodwin Tech, which has been in this situation before. Despite the lost talent, the team should be competitive once again in the CTC.

INNOVATION

Head coach: Matt Lance (6th season)

Last year: 19-4 (lost in second round of Class M tournament)

Key losses: N/A

Key returnees: Molly Corcoran (senior setter), Kenia Hernandez (senior outside hitter), Victoria Merced (senior outside hitter)

Outlook: The Ravens enjoyed another successful season in the CRAL last year, and this fall should be no different. Four starters left due to graduation, and there is some offense to be replaced, but Innovation brings back its strongest defensive player in Kenia Hernandez, and head coach Matt Lance is encouraged by the team’s improvements at the service line, which could help make up for any offensive voids left behind.

Look for Molly Corcoran to make an impact from the setter position, as the senior approaches the school’s all-time assists record. Aerospace should give the Ravens a tough time, but once again, it’s tough to rule out Innovation as the favorite in the CRAL.

Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or rchichester@newbritainherald.com



Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, Goodwin Tech, Innovation, New Britain, Newington, Plainville, Southington on Tuesday, 10 September 2019 17:15. Updated: Tuesday, 10 September 2019 17:17.