HOLDEN — After missing the playoffs by an eyelash a season ago, the Wachusett Regional High women’s varsity volleyball team is back and ready to forge a different outcome for this 2022 campaign.
One returning player who remembers the disappointment of going short is junior forward Claire Michalowski, who vows to see this team succeed in the season which kicked off August 31 with a game against visiting Oxford High .
“It was a big blow that we didn’t make the playoffs last year,” said Michalowski, who also holds a black belt in karate. “I don’t think any of us want to go through that again, so we’re going to show everything we can do this year. We’ve got a whole bunch of really good players coming in, and I’m very excited and waiting. looking forward to the season.
“I really love being an outside hitter, but I also love the feeling of working with your team to win. Not a single person makes or breaks your team. You might have a really good person, but if the others aren’t good, your team won’t be good.
“Claire was on the varsity team sophomore as one of our outside hitters,” WRHS head coach Jennifer Burton said. “She is talented in all facets of the game: striking, defending and serving. She was an impact player for us last year in a difficult mid-A season schedule.
“Claire works all year to improve her skills and plays as much volleyball as she can at the highest level possible. She works very hard; his teammates love him. She is a student of the game, very intelligent and determined. She will one day make an excellent coach. She helps whenever needed, does the little things that are needed, often without being asked.
Michalowski’s love for the sport of volleyball came a bit later than most as it was the first year she broke into the JV team before being promoted to college one year. later. She comes from a very athletic family – she is the youngest of four athletic siblings – who have helped keep things going informally.
“I had a lot of skills that some kids pick up when they were playing in middle school because I played for three years in my backyard with my siblings,” she said. “There are a lot of hitters much taller than me (5-foot-7) so I have to jump pretty high. It’s just something I have to keep working on.
Michalowski gives credit where credit is due, and that’s with the setters who give her the ball so she can deliver a decisive smash or feather the ball for a soft drop into the opposition’s territory to points. Knowing that she has such capable teammates makes life on the pitch a little less nerve-wracking.
“Spiking the ball is really nice, but it’s also our amazing Wachusett passers who know how to get the ball in the right place and let me have that feeling,” she said. “Going into games I get a little nervous, but once you start playing, it’s almost like all the excitement of playing rushes through you. It gets really fun, really fast.
“Communication is super important, because you have to know what is going on. Talking to people and knowing they have your back and you have theirs makes the game much smoother than if it was silent. The game goes much faster than you think. You will miss points, but you have to trust that your teammates will be there with you, understand and get the next one.
Intense gym work to maintain strength and stamina is no stranger to Michalowski at all. She knows everything comes with the territory, but it’s worth it when it helps her performance on the field.
“I do a lot of leg work and conditioning to make sure I can jump to a good consistent height throughout the game. Some of the long rallies are strenuous, and it’s not much fun if you’re not out of shape,” she said.
“I really love the game and I appreciate everyone I work with at Wachusett. Sometimes you get tired and it seems like practice drags on. They really help you through it. Those little moments of doubt , they really help you.
In addition to studies and sports, Michalowski volunteers for NEADS Service Dogs, a training facility in Princeton.