GIRLS VOLLEYBALL ’22: On the courts of the region, the heritage holds the service


MERIDEN – They know the standard.

The region’s seven women’s volleyball teams went 104-55 combined last year. All seven made the playoffs.

Although the specific numbers change from year to year, this is the ongoing trend in women’s volleyball, and it’s a legacy that local teams should continue in 2022.

The courses remain the same. Cheshire, Southington and Maloney are in LL class, Platt and Lyman Hall in L class, Sheehan and Wilcox Tech in M ​​class.

Some faces have changed. Three All-State players from a year ago have graduated: Savannah Bernabucci from Maloney, Morgan Birdsey from Southington and Mackenzie Grady from Lyman Hall.

And yet, in the end, there’s a good chance there will be a new set of All-State faces.

Moreover, a fourth is back. This is Avery Mola from Cheshire. She was both All-State and SCC Player of the Year last season as a junior.

A number of other players who led their teams to the playoffs in 2021 are also returning, so the bridge to 2022 already has considerable decking in place. Now it remains only to continue the work that has been going on for a long time and swing.


Until the end, it was perfection for the Rams in 2021. They were undefeated in the regular season, losing just three games along the way. They earned trainer Sue Bavone victory #550 and won the SCC tournament.

Then came the states. The top-seeded Rams earned a first-round bye, beat New Canaan 3-0 in the second round and sank Southington 3-1 in the quarter-finals before losing to Fairfield Ludlowe 3-1 in the semi-finals.

Finishing 24-1, the Rams ranked No. 7 in the latest state poll.

Cheshire lost some big guns from this team. Senior Libero Tori Santi was the best player in the SCC tournament. Setter Grace Downing (403 assists) and hitter Jenna Stickney (143 kills) were All-SCC.

But the Rams bring back Mola and his 270 kills and 52 aces. The All-Stater is captain this year along with fellow seniors Sophia Surato and Lizzie Braun.

In all, there are 11 seniors in the squad. One of them, Amelia Perlini, succeeds Downing as setter.

Cheshire also fires second center hitter Eva Catalonato. In eight games last year, she had 37 kills and 11 blocks. Bavone is looking for her as a constant offensive weapon this fall.

Junior junior hitter Kat Ulicki is another key returner for the Rams. Junior Kira Strauss is the new libero.

Compared to last year, Cheshire have a squad that lack height, but Bavone have had success with undersized squads before.

“We expect to be competitive in the conference,” said Bavone, entering his 28th season with a 564-98 record. “We’re up against a lot of teams we haven’t seen in a while, like Mercy and Branford. We’ve never played at Lauraton Hall before.

“We should be competitive in the league,” added Bavone. “My hope is to stay competitive and on top of the league. We want to make some noise in the States.


The Lady Knights retired All-State slugger Morgan Birdsey from last year’s team 18-6, but come back 11 and should still benefit from newcomers who went 18-0 last year in JV.

The senior captains for Coach Rich Heitz’s 22nd season are Jessica Greco and Haley Weiner.

Weiner is the team’s third-year passer. She was the zone leader last year with 866 assists. Greco specializes in defense and service.

The offensive guns will be outside hitters Adriana Palmieri and Cami Wessels.

Palmieri, a 5-foot-10 senior, was a force last year with 168 kills, 192 digs and 72 aces. His value was further underscored by his loss. Palmieri broke his wrist in the CCC tournament and his appearance was missed for the rest of the playoffs, which ended in the quarter-final loss to Cheshire in the LL class.

Wessels, a junior, leaves center, where she had 135 kills a year ago.

Junior Gabrielle Ferreira, holder for two years, will be the anchor on the right side. It had 150 victims and 150 recoveries last year.

Katrina Possidento, also a junior, will patrol the middle. She was Southington’s most accurate hitter last year (.340) and second on the team in kills (182).

Yet another junior, Megan Smith, delivers a serious punch to Southington from the service line.

Defensively, Mackenzie Marek is back with fellow senior libero/DS Emma Pfanzelt.

Pfanzelt will also see the time on the right side. An all-around athlete who, as Heitz said, can play almost anywhere, she provides options for Southington.

The Blue Knights have solid serve, an experienced setter hand and weapons at net. They need to be more efficient this year to finish the kills though.


Coach Kevin Savejs and the Spartans were reluctant to see two-time Redord-Journal Player of the Year Savannah Bernabucci.

She was the leading hitter in program history with 560 career kills. The 354 she had in the 2021 16-4 season was the region’s record and also Maloney’s single-season record.

“We have a big void to fill to replace Savannah Bernabucci,” Savejs said. “Replacing 354 eliminations in a single season will be a task no matter how you look at it.”

The Spartans also graduated Gracey Massicotte, their four-year-old setter. During a senior All-CCC South season, Massicotte dished out 413 assists while finding the floor with 130 kills and 91 aces. Defensively, she had 179 digs.

Other key losses were Xarianna Perez and Stephanie Cicio.

Maloney brings back a senior core in setter Rachael Case, midfielders Ashley Case and Nadia Berrios, outside hitter Peyton Pulaski and opposite Lacie Cox.

Junior libero Samantha Cicio, junior outside hitter Kendall Ferreira, second-year outside hitter Keren Crespo and second-year defensive specialist Emily Arroyo are new varsity players with whom the Spartans begin their next chapter.

“I have faith in the players around whom we’ve built this year’s varsity team,” Savejs said. “We have depth and plenty of returning players who recorded important college minutes last season.

“The sophomores on the college roster are really stepping up and pushing the upperclassmen to practice every day,” Savejs added. “They will certainly record some good college time this year and I am confident that when called up they will be reliable assets to our team.”

Service and defense are the strength of these Spartans. Their schedule will be a challenge. Maloney is now No. 1 in the Central Connecticut Conference.


The final numbers seem pedestrian: 9-10 in the regular season, 9-12 overall.

But the fact is, the 2021 Platt Panthers, though young, have fought hard. This was evident in the playoffs, when the campaign ended with a 3-2 loss to South Windsor in the first round of the Class L tournament.

While the Panthers fired center hitter Tyianna Gadwah, they fired three All-CCC South players: junior outside hitter Eva Dudley, senior setter Emily Hart and sophomore libero Isabella DeMatteo.

Dudley established herself as a sophomore, collecting 216 kills, 176 digs and 52 aces.

Hart, a college starter since her freshman year, delivered 351 assists as a junior, making just 29 errors on 1,260 attempts. Hart also had 148 digs, 112 kills and 71 aces.

DeMatteo led the defense with 245 digs and 350 service receptions.

Sophomore Anna Gostkowski, who will fill Gadwah’s spot as middle tackle, is rising in the rankings.

“The team showed a lot of promise playing two hard-fought playoff games last year,” noted coach Adam Viviano. “We hope that will continue this year and that the season will be successful.”

Lyman Hall

Like Maloney, Lyman Hall lost a big one for graduation. Mackenzie Grady had a region-high 288 kills, 251 digs and 105 aces during his senior season. For his career, the three-time All-RJ pick has amassed 595 kills, 813 digs and 180 aces.

LH also dismissed setter Shakira Villanueva, libero Keira Reed and midfielder Sophia Donath from last year’s 11-9 squad.

The Trojans return in 2022 led by four returning starters. Each is a senior captain: outside hitter Callie Chordas, middle tackle Vivian Pawloski, right side hitter Alana Peruti and libero Anna Fekieta.

Senior outside hitter Samantha Ralston and a cast of first-year juniors: setter Casey Mordecai, midfielder/right-back London Murry-Brown and defensive specialists Jorja Trocchio and Isabel Karjanis enter the varsity mix.

Add it up and LH fears no challenge.

“This team works hard and is excited to compete,” said coach Marion Kish. “We have four returning starters and are expecting a great season.”


Captains Shannon Murphy, Cecelia Verna and Lily Bauer lead a very young Sheehan team through 2022 who must forge a new identity.

The Titans graduated eight seniors from their 2021 13-10 squad, including All-SCC “Mackenzies” Jayna Mackenzie and Mackenzie Warmoth. Jayna MacKenzie led the Titans with 134 kills and also had 217 digs.

But the Titans are firing their captains, along with Sarah Beckert, who started as a setter last year as a rookie.

“I can’t wait to see the on-field chemistry between Murphy, Verna, Bauer and Sarah Beckert,” coach Victoria Sperrazza said. “It will basically be a whole new team.”

Given their youth, the Titans will work to improve individual skills and integrate them into the new team dynamic. They continued it in pre-season, instilling optimism in their manager.

“I have a very positive outlook for this season because this group has shown me how hard they work and how much they want to win,” Sperrazza said. “I am already very proud of this group.


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