The fans at Wethersfield High School were on their feet after the Eagles volleyball team stole the first set against Berlin last Wednesday night.
The celebration was short lived as Berlin wound up winning the match in four sets (23-25, 25-7, 25-19, 25-19), but the strong opening frame and improved overall play on the court are signs that the volleyball team at Wethersfield is unified and ready to turn the corner.
“I saw them more aggressive tonight. I saw better offense, I saw them sticking with longer rallies and making good saves,” said Wethersfield head coach Debbie O’Brien, “We may have let up a little after the first set. Sometimes we lose that focus and don’t play as aggressively, and it starts to slip away.”
It’s been a rough season in the win-loss column for O’Brien and her squad. The Eagles entered the game having lost nine of their first ten games, but it hasn’t been because of a lack of effort or talent.
“It’s been up and down this season. We play great, we have moments of brilliance and then all of a sudden we have this dip and we’re struggling and trying to come back,” added O’Brien, “Sometimes I think it’s our confidence. Like in that last set, we’re playing well and hustling but there’s a few mistake and it’s 20-16 in the blink of an eye.”
Despite the losses, the team hasn’t lost their competitive edge and that was evident in the opening set against the Redcoats. Trailing 23-21, the Eagles reeled off the final four points on a pair of kills by Kaleigh Hart, another kill from Kathleen Kerekes, and an ace from Jackie Reategui.
Hart and Kerekes are two of the team’s four seniors and provide the power up front. The tandem combined for 15 kills against Berlin.
“Kaleigh played her freshman and sophomore year but didn’t play last year, so this is her first year on varsity. She’s been a nice pleasant surprise. She’s a big presence in the front row and I’m happy to have her back.”
“Kit [Kerekes] has played a bunch of different positions. At times she’s been a setter and at times she’s been a weak side hitter. When she’s on, she’s really good. Even as a lefty we have her on the outside because that tends to be where our offense goes. She’s also a great leader.”
Sabrina Torres and Trisha Signorello are the other 12th graders on the court. The duo combined to make the play of the night in the fourth set, which nearly turned the tide and allowed Wethersfield to mount a comeback.
On the play, Signorello dug out a Berlin kill attempt and Torres hustled to save the ball from going out of bounds. Torres’ bump carried over the net, scoring a point for the Eagles.
The fans, her teammates and her coach acknowledged the extraordinary effort with a round of applause.
“She’s always going after the ball,” O’Brien said of Torres, “She’s one of our captains and she’s a floor leader, always talking on the court.”
Signorello is the team’s libero, leading the team with 11 digs against the Redcoats. Her coach referred to her as the “key to our defense.”
“The four seniors are really committed and have been great leaders and role models. The kids look up to them and feed off of them. They can also be that person that settles things a little bit,” O’Brien stated, “All four of them have different roles, all of which we need. Kaleigh is always even-keeled, everything is always positive and everything is always good. Sometimes we need that player because no matter what happens she’s going to be steady. Trisha is always hustling in the back. Sabrina is going to be the talker and Kat is more of the volleyball speak, letting everyone know what’s happening on the opposite side of the court.”
The foursome has received help on the court from a strong group of junior, spearheaded by Cheyenne-Mone Smith, who tallied six kills and five digs in the contest.
“She’s more confident this year. I’ve seen her be more aggressive and take on more of a leadership role on the court, where she may have been more apprehensive or hesitant her sophomore year,” O’Brien said of the blossoming junior, “She’s been playing more front row, but I’d like her to play more in the back row because she’s that athlete that goes after the ball and the kids feed off her energy. She is a difference maker and we’d like to get her on the court more.”
Reategui (27 assists) and Danielle Elliott have also assumed important roles as juniors.
“Jackie has made an incredible amount of growth this year and today is probably the most confident I’ve seen her. She works incredibly hard and she’s my only setter, even in practice. She just wants to be better and gives us the effort and attitude that we need,” said O’Brien,
“Danielle got a little experience last year and she’s started every game this year. She’s makes a big difference blocking and serving. She works hard at practice and is a very coachable kid.”
Juniors Mallory Walker, Anna O’Neil, Heather Mayo, and sophomore Emily McKenna round out a roster that hope to makes the second half of the season a successful one.
“You get more confident as you win, so it’s tough to get that confidence,” O’Brien said about the struggles, “We started the season losing to Middletown in a five-set match. If we would have won that it would have set a different tone for the rest of the season. I think we need that one win that will give us confidence. I’d like to see them play more confidently and believe that they can really win. Obviously the wins are what we want, but I’d also like to see that hustle and aggressive play that we had tonight. We’re right there in a lot of matches, so I’d like to see us play more consistent and shorten those streaks of mistakes and really believe in their skills.”
The Eagles have a home match against crosstown rival Rocky Hill this Friday, Oct 14. The border battle starts at 5 p.m.
Questions or comments? Email josh@rarereminder or follow on Twitter @RareReminderJH
Friday Football Round Up
Middletown Remains Perfect
The Blue Dragons kept their perfect season intact with a 27-12 home victory over Maloney. Quarterback Tyshaun James ran for 180 yards and two scores, and threw another touchdown through the air to C.J. Sprowl. DeShaun Bradshaw chipped in with 140 rushing yards, including a 90-yard touchdown sprint, and Stone Belzo had 14 tackles and an interception, helping the team improve to 5-0 at the midway point of the regular season.
Rocky Hill Rocks Rockville
The Terriers ran over the Rams of Rockville 51-7 at McVicar Field, improving to 4-1. Grant Nieves scored twice, including returning on of his three interception for a 100-yard touchdown. It was the team’s sixth consecutive victory over Rockville, dating back to 2011.
Newington Can’t Stop Slide
The Indians lost their fourth straight game, falling to E.O. Smith 31-21 in Storrs. The team has a chance to right the ship with a week off, before playing the next two games at home against Bristol Eastern and Middletown.
Wethersfield Weathers the Storm
Playing shorthanded due to injuries, the Eagles got back into the winning column with a 21-6 victory over winless Hartford Public. The team now has a chance to get healthy during a bye week, before traveling to Meriden to take on Platt on Friday, Oct 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Xavier Loses a Heartbreaker
Xavier lost to Cheshire on a last-second field goal, 26-24. The Falcons jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a pair of touchdowns from running back Glenn Cunningham, but allowed Cheshire to score the next 23 points. Prior to the game-winning field goal, Xavier quarterback Will Levis connected with Joe Galatie on a 50-yard touchdown to temporarily regained the lead for the Falcons, who fall to 2-3.
Cromwell Renews Rivalry with Morgan
Cromwell and Morgan have developed one of the best athletic rivalries in the state and the two schools will again battle on the gridiron after a one-year hiatus. The Panthers enter the contest undefeated (3-0) and the Huskies from Clinton have won three of their four contest this season. Pierson Park is the site for the showdown, which kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday Oct 14.
Wethersfield Cross Country seniors celebrated Senior Day at Cove Park in Wethersfield on October 4th.
From left to right: Matt Stefanik, Phil Rudak, Griffin Grabowski, Matt Pazdziora, Molly Desrochers, Hannah Desrochers, Amina Kuljancic, and Jill Zuidema
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin