Cromwell sophomore Grace Mikan and Wethersfield senior Emma Klementon were selected as Athletes of the Week
Anna Sbriglio- Cromwell (Soccer): Sbriglio got off to a fast start this season, scoring two goals and dishing out three assists during the team’s first three games. The senior is not only productive and the best athlete on the field, but she is the unquestioned leader for a Panthers team that is off to a 3-1-1 start this fall.
Emma Klementon- Wethersfield (Soccer): Klementon has been spectacular so far this season, including five-goal performance in the first half during a shutout win over Middletown on Oct 6, and last Thursday she added her team-high ninth goal in a 4-0 victory over Rocky Hill. The senior, along with her twin sister Annie Klementon, were responsible for both goals in a 2-0 victory over Newington on the team’s Senior Night (10/2). Entering the week, the Eagles are atop the conference with a record of 7-0-1, outscoring their opponents 35-2 through eight games.
Grace Mikan- Cromwell (Cross Country): Mikan is coming off a second-team All-Shoreline Conference as a freshman last fall and has come back strong this season, finishing fourth overall and leading the way for the Panthers during a meet with East Hampton. The sophomore been atop the Panthers leaderboard in every meet so far this season.
Julia Remiszewski- Newington (Swimming): Remiszewski specializes in the backstroke and offers depths in the 200 IM and 100 Fly for Newington’s swim and dive team. The sophomore dropped more than two seconds off her lifetime best time in the 100 Backstroke in a first-place finish against Farmington on Oct 14 and coach Crystal Connery commended her on really stepping for the team during up a rebuilding year.
Alanna DePinto- Wethersfield (Swimming): DePinto easily won both the 200 IM and 100 Freestyle, along with being a leg on two first-place relay teams, in a win over Berlin last Friday. The sophomore has been a major reason why the Eagles are off to a 4-0 start this fall.
2020 has been a rollercoaster of a ride for Rocky Hill head coach Annmarie Catania and her Terriers soccer team, “Honestly, it’s been kind of like a fog. I think the girls in the beginning were very hesitant to play a physical game because of everything, like keeping six feet during the first month. They are so used to not touching anybody, you can’t high five anybody, the whole thing is very odd.”
Rocky Hill opened the season with a win over Middletown, only to lose the next four, before earning a second straight victory following a strong second half in a 3-0 home win over Middletown.
It took a while for the Terriers to find their footing, before taking control in the second half on a pair of back-to-back strikes from senior captain Mia Valente.
Valente scored on a header following a perfectly placed corner kick from Madeline Guerrera, 23 minutes into the second frame.
Less than a minute later Valente found the back of the net again on a straight-away kick from point blank range.
“Mia is diehard, she will do anything to not have another loss. Our first halves have been inconsistent. They’re very slow starters but the last 20 minutes was good to see. If we can play like that or the way we did at Maloney every game then I think we would be doing much better,” stated Catania, referring to a 1-0 win at the Meriden-based Spartans on Oct 15.
Rocky Hill controlled the tempo and the ball for a majority of the second half, and goalie Lillian Aube protected the net from start to finish.
Aube made a handful of saves, including a nifty sliding save to stop a breakaway with the game scoreless midway through the second half.
“Lillian has gotten so much better over the last month,” Catania said of Aube, who is a first-year starter, “Her confidence level has grown and I think she is doing excellent on breakaways, which is the hardest thing to learn as a keeper. She’s made some game-saving saves.”
Catania added that senior captain Hannah Conneely is the engine behind the team, which consists of 14 seniors.
“This senior class is excellent. It’s a nice group of girls, probably the best senior class that we’ve had that have been respectful on and off the field. They’ve dealt with this much better than I thought they would, and they want the season to continue, so they’re following everything they need to follow and they’re great role models for the younger girls.”
Catania credited senior Jillian Chipkin with making significant strides, helping solidify the defense, “She’s made the biggest growth out of anyone I’ve seen since I’ve been in Rocky Hill. From her junior to senior year her growth has been beautiful to watch. She’s tough and she’s been a big anchor back there.”
Chipkin is joined on the defensive end by fellow seniors Jennifer Kimball and Guerrera.
Catania has leaned on her seniors and likes the young talent on the roster, particularly sophomore Gianna Nanci, who she credited with “changing the mood of the game upfront” and freshman Skylar Sweeney, who she called “amazing in the middle.”
With 1:40 remaining, sophomore Sophia Scalise added the third and final goal of the evening.
The victory over Middletown improved the Terriers to 3-4 in the highly competitive conference, which features rivals Newington and Wethersfield.
Turning those slow starts into quicker starts is the goal for the stretch run in what has been an up-and-down and unpredictable season for Catania, “I think they’re not enjoying the moment because they are waiting for it to end in a strange sense, but we just have to start games better.”
Middletown fell to 0-6. Goalie and captain Victoria Correll played well in defeat and made several stops in the second half, allowing the Blue Dragons to stay within striking distance.
The teams are scheduled to meet one more time on Nov 15, again at RHHS. The Terriers will be aiming to sweep the season series.
On November 18, 2019, former Wethersfield High School baseball star and 2014 graduate Ryan Costello suddenly passed away at the age of 23 in New Zealand.
Less than a year later, his parents Tammy and Chris Costello, along with his high school baseball coach Mark Bagdasarian and other family, friends, and supporters celebrated Ryan’s life while raising money and awareness through a charitable golf tournament.
The proceeds from the event, held at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain on Oct 12, will benefit The RC13 Foundation, started by the Costello family and Bagdasarian, which will provide scholarships to local baseball and softball players while bringing awareness to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.
“Ryan was such an inspirational person and he was very deep,” said Tammy Costello, “He loved his community and he loved people and it frustrated him that some people who wanted to go to college couldn’t go because they couldn’t afford to. We wanted to provide a scholarship to someone that could assist them.”
At the time of his death, Costello was overseas continuing his baseball dream when a rare heart condition, known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, took his life. WPW is a disorder that causes a specific problem with the electrical system of the heart.
One of the goals of the foundation is to provide potentially life-saving devices, such as an AED (automated external defibrillator) to local facilities.
“He got physical, after physical, after physical playing baseball,” stated Bagdasarian, “This could have been prevented. It’s something that is extremely treatable.”
Costello grew up in Old Wethersfield where he began playing baseball at an early age.
Bagdasarian remembers him as a tremendous ball player with an unwavering drive to succeed, “He loved baseball, that’s all he wanted to do. His parents got him involved in travel baseball and I was one of the owners of Baseball City at the time and he used to work off his tuition. He came in with talent and little by little you could see that talent grow.”
Costello would go on to earn back-to-back All-Conference honors and was selected All-State following his senior season at WHS.
“He was so demanding of me as a coach and his teammates,” added Bagdasarian, “He was leader by example but was not afraid to get in [his teammates] faces and demanded more out of them. He wanted more and he expected more. The best part about it was after the game he’d give them a hug, and everything was good. They knew that he was doing it because he wanted to get the best out of them.”
High school teammate Nick Quadrato knew him as a talent on the field and a best friend off it, “Ryan put in the work. At a young age, probably 13 or 14, he knew his job was going to be a baseball player. After school he wasn’t goofing off, he was going to the gym and working on his game. He put the time in, and it really showed.”
“We all know how good of a baseball player Ryan was, but he was a better person than he was a baseball player. He was the best friend, best teammate that a kid could ever ask for. He held his friends accountable. He knew what was right, what was wrong, and he wanted what was best for everyone.”
After high school, Costello went on to star at a Division I level as an infielder for Central Connecticut State University. He would again earn All-Conference and help lead the Blue Devils to a Northeast Conference Championship title.
Dean Lockery, who was Costello’s teammate and roommate for three years at CCSU, recalled the first time the two met, “We were both freshmen and both played the same position, so I knew I would be competing against him. You could tell from the first practice that he was going to be one of the better players. We competed and made each other better. After that first year it was really clear that he was going to be the guy and you wanted to be just as good as him. He challenged everybody to get on his level.”
After hearing the news of Costello’s death, Lockery said his perspective on life changed, “He was on top of the world, ready to have his best year ever. It’s still hard. Once something like this happens you start to think of life differently, you just never know.”
Following to a stellar college career, which ended with a great performance in the NCAA Regionals, Costello achieved his childhood dream and was drafted by the Seattle Mariners before eventually being traded to the Minnesota Twins.
During his stint in the minor leagues, Costello continued to be a clutch performer. He made the Midwest All-Star game while representing the Fort Myers Miracle, hitting a go-ahead three run home run to ensure the Miracle a league title.
His last baseball stop was in the Australian Baseball League, playing for the Aucklund Tuatara.
On that fateful day last November, the news of his passing shook the state and stunned the local Wethersfield community.
“I’ve had some tough losses in my life but that was the worst day of my life,” recalled Quadrato, “It took some time, but spending time with Tammy and Chris is what helped me. Just being with good people and reminiscing on the good times with Ryan. His legacy will live on.”
Costello’s legacy is now living on through The RC13 Foundation, who in conjunction with In A Heartbeat Foundation, donated and presented an AED to 860Baseball, the home of the Connecticut Capitals and where Costello sharpened his skills growing up.
The foundation will continue to honor his life and baseball career with fundraisers and the annual golf tournament to provide additional AEDs
and raise money for future scholarships.
Tammy Costello said baseball was how people identified her son, but it was only a small part of who he was, “Ryan was very gregarious, he was funny. He wanted his family around him and a lot of times he would just hang out and relax. We always had a good time together and we’d travel with him all the time. Baseball was his career choice and what he was passionate about, but it did not define him. He valued family.”
She added that with the help of Bagdasarian and his former teammates, Ryan’s lasting influence will live on in Wethersfield and beyond “Ryan loved Old Wethersfield. It’s so rewarding from the standpoint that this community keeps me going. It’s very easy when you lose a child to lose a part of yourself and a part of me shattered that day, but I picked up the pieces because of these kids. We have to be strong as a community.”
For 34 minutes, Newington and Rocky Hill played to a scoreless standstill at McVicar Field on Oct 8.
Reed Campbell and Christian Amaral broke the deadlock with 5:54 remaining the first half when Campbell led Amaral with a precise pass, which Amaral booted past goalie Jamin Shan for the go-ahead and deciding goal in a 3-0 Newington victory.
Campbell and Amaral were captaining the Indians for the road game, showcasing leadership qualities and providing a much-needed lift of the offensive end.
“Reed is a phenomenal kid and Christian worked so hard in the offseason. Both of these guys are looking to play at the next level, so their leadership is so important,” said Newington head coach Jeff Brunetti, “They have that connection on the field, which is great because that got us going. It took a while and give Rocky Hill credit, they are playing a different style of soccer this year and they are doing a really nice job.”
Midway through the second half Campbell provided a goal of his own when he found the left corner of the next from 15 yards away and sophomore Jack Stair added the finishing touches with a goal in the 72nd minute.
Brunetti’s team has a nice blend of senior experience and youthful energy, which was beneficial during the uncertain offseason, “My job has been really easy because they were so internally motivated. They played summer soccer, they worked together. When they have that intrinsic motivation to get fit and do better, my job is easy. I give my players all the credit for that. They really prepared in the offseason.”
On the defensive end, Newington stifled Rocky Hill’s attack early and often as first-year goalie Xander Ford protected the net. Ford is replacing goalie Nicholas Cox, who graduated following a terrific year in 2019.
“Xander is doing a great job, making saves and keeping us in games,” added Brunetti, “We expect that as part of the culture of our program. As kids come up, they are prepared to play.”
The Terriers threatened a couple of time in the second half, but Ford stopped every shot he faced, including a pair of pointblank shots from senior Marcello Gugliotti in the second half.
Rocky Hill’s first-year coach Paul Horta said the game is another learning experience for a program in transition, “Obviously we are trying to win games, that is still our first and foremost, but we’re not going to judge success on the field by the final result. We have to see growth, individually and as a team, and I think they’ve grasp that and they understand that. Hopefully we can see that progress in games nine, ten, eleven, twelve.”
During this shortened season, Horta is implementing his philosophy while learning the tendencies of his players.
“We knew it would be a slower process than normal, but COVID has given us more time with the boys because we had those three weeks before contact to talk about our philosophy,” added Horta, “They’re a young group, we start two freshmen, we have another coming off the bench that plays a lot of minutes. We looked at the whole year like it was going to be a development year.”
Horta’s team is also playing shorthanded as captain Michaeljon Moleiro is out with an injury and starting goalie Murad Kup was forced to miss the game against Newington.
Moleiro, Kup and Ricky Alvarado serves as team captains and are part of a senior class that helped during the coaching changeover.
“They’re a great bunch of kids,” Horta said of his seniors, “Even though some of them don’t play as much, they are all role models and set the tone in practice. You wouldn’t know if they played five minutes or 80 minutes, they put in the game amount of effort. They helped a lot and that’s a tradition in high school, we tell the senior to be a monitor to the younger boys on the field and in school.”
Shah showed lots of promise filling in for Kup, making a handful of saves, including a diving save in the second half.
“Jamin is a kid that has improved a lot in one year. He normally plays JV but got called up and did a great job,” added Horta, “He’ll teach the younger kids that you can get to where you want if you just work hard. He’s a great role model.”
Horta, who also coaches youth soccer in Rocky Hill, believes his team just need to get comfortable on the field that the results will start to roll in, which was evidenced by a 4-0 victory over Maloney last Friday, giving the Terriers their first win under Horta.
Newington enters this week at 4-1-1 after a convincing victory at Platt and a draw against Middletown last week. Diogo Caetano (2), Trey Guest, Dan Ellis, Amaral, Campbell, and Stair each scored goals in the win over Platt.
“It’s one game at a time. There’s not one game that is more important than another game. We just try and keep the same mentality, it’s just good to be back on the field,” stated Brunetti, “I think we try and keep that approach the same, and that excitement level is there this year. We’re very thankful that we have these games considering the circumstances.”
In a year of unknowns, positivity is a constant for the Wethersfield field hockey program.
“We want to stay positive about the whole situation,” said senior Morgan Cathcart, “We want to get all of our games in and have a successful season like last year.”
Cathcart was one of six seniors honored on October 1 at Cottone Field as the Eagles opened the 2020 season with a 4-0 shutout of Newington.
Head coach Colleen Budaj decided to move the team’s Senior Night to the season opener because of the uncertainty surrounding the fall sports season, “In my mind I thought if the season gets pulled, we have to recognize them. I wanted to make sure they were recognized the first day we can get on this field.”
Budaj’s deep senior class includes her daughter, Sydney Budaj, who said the adjustment to the new regulations are difficult but manageable, “I think that this has brought us closer together. We’re a super close, tight-knit team. I think we came in with the same attitude this year but we definitely trying to keep everyone safe.”
Wethersfield entered 2020 coming off three straight tournament appearance, which includes a remarkable 2019 in which they won 15 or 16 regular season games.
The program’s ascent has been steady since Budaj took over.
Coach Budaj’s challenge this season is two folds; continue to build off the success of the past three years and navigate through the zaniness of 2020.
“We talked to the kids the other day about how we don’t want to approach it differently, but it has felt different. We want to do whatever we can do within the restrictions of what the CIAC gave us, so those first couple of weeks felt slow. Lots of individual stick work and cardio. Every day the kids wanted to scrimmage, they wanted to do drills, so it was slow, deliberate, calculated which I think made them a little anxious. As coaches, our hands have been tied and there are so many things that are out of our control,” said Budaj, who coaches with her husband, Steve, “One of the things that we keep telling them is appreciate what we have. Appreciate everything that we have together. At Wethersfield High we can let fans in, a lot of places can’t let fans in. The fact that we were able to enjoy this with our families tonight and celebrate all of it has been important. We’re trying really hard to get them to celebrate each day that we have together.”
With the continuing uncertainty surrounding the high school sports, senior Emily Bielawiec appreciates the opportunity to play more than ever, “It’s very rewarding. I’ve always loved this team and I always wanted to come back. Playing each game like it could be your last is the mindset that we all have. We want to stay positive, keep going, and hopefully the season doesn’t end.”
The win over Newington was highlighted by four first-half goals. Senior Kate Anzidei scored two, fellow senior Lorien Touponse added another, and junior Kathryn Bello tallied the other.
The offense is picking up right where they left off at the end of last season, when they average 3.5 goals per game over 16 regular season contests.
“The attack comes from all different sides this year. When you have Lorien streaking down with those tremendous stick skills on the left, she’s hard to defend because most people aren’t used to someone coming at them from the opposite side,” stated Budaj.
Junior Julia Peacock was perfect in goal, aided by a swarming Eagles defense.
Peacock, a returning starter, will again tend goal along with sophomore Veronica McKenna.
“We want to get both of them some varsity time. Veronica spent most of her time on JV last season but they both have grown together, they’ve pushed each other,” added Budaj, “Their comradery has been awesome, so we talk to them about splitting time this year to get them both experience working at varsity level. That competition piece is always important. You want them to push each other, you want them to motivate and help each other excel.”
Last week, the Eagles continued to soar with shutout wins over Conard and East Catholic, accompanied by a tie with Northwest Catholic.
So far the season has gone on without a hitch and the Eagles seem destined for another successful season, shortened or not.
Cathcart, whose mom Donna was the field hockey coach prior to Budaj taking over, just wants to enjoy each game and stay positive no matter what changes occur, “Personally I tried not to approach [this season] any different. I tried to keep the mindset that we were going to have a season and play every game. I think the team as a whole decided to keep working as hard as we could so we would be ready when we had a chance to play.”
Newington Field Hockey: “Small, But Mighty”
Newington field hockey came out on the losing end against Wethersfield to open the season. The 4-0 defeat was just another stepping-stone for a developing, vibrant team looking towards the future.
“We’re just trying to keep it positive and fun, yet competitive,” said Newington’s fourth-year head coach Veronica Grubin, “We’re letting the girls focus on what they can control in these circumstance, because for a lot of us there is a lot of uncontrollable right now. I’m just really proud of their performance today. I thought they worked as hard as they could and out their heart and souls into it.”
Grubin is leading a team with only three seniors during this bizarre season, “It’s very strange. Up until last week we were only doing individual skill work and conditioning, so trying and put a very young team together in a week and a half is no easy task, but I’m just really happy with their progress. As long as they are working hard that’s all I can ask and I’m happy with that.”
Senior Caitlyn Smith is a captain, helping coach the players on the field and is thankful for each game, “We have to approach every game and put our heart and souls into it, and make it matter. Our team is definitely small but we are mighty together and it has brought us together so much.”
Smith, a returning varsity player from 2019, said the team is focusing on what they can control in the moment and aims for “pride, passion and positivity” each time they step foot on the field.
Alexis Santo and Nicole DeBlasio are the team’s other seniors, helping groom the team for this season and beyond.
Sophomore Hailey Gaydos and junior Menna Majdoub will also play a big role from a production and leadership standpoint this season.
Protecting the next is a pair of sophomores who are learning the position on the fly. Isabella Marocchini has assumed the starting varsity position and Riley Sullivan is filling in as needed while learning the ropes at the JV level.
The team fell to Conard and Hall last week, putting the team in an 0-3 hole.
But as Grubin pointed out, each game is a learning experience for the developing club, “We have an appreciation that we can be out here. We have a manta that we say before and after practice ‘let’s be aggressive, let’s be relentless, no fear of losing or making mistake and that we never give up’. We’re just so grateful to be out here.”
Madison Massaro-Cook- Newington (Volleyball): Massaro-Cook had 10 kills and four aces in a three-set win over Rocky Hill last week. The senior was also instrumental in helping the Indians defeat Maloney, evening the team’s record at 2-2.
Charlie Hayes- Wethersfield (Soccer): Hayes scored three goals in the first half as the Eagles defeated Platt 6-1 last Tuesday. The senior is helping lead an offense that has scored 13 total goals through the first three games, all wins.
Ryan Michaud- Middletown (Baseball): Michaud committed to play baseball at Eastern Connecticut State University. The senior first baseman has been a big part of the Blue Dragons baseball program as well as a star of the Palmer Dogs, a local team in Middletown that is part of the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association.
Mark Rodriguez- Cromwell (Cross Country): Rodriguez has picked up where he left off in 2019, starring as the lead runner for the Panthers. Rodriguez is heading a talented team that is coming off a runner-up finish at the 2019 Class SS finals.
Ryan Lombardo- Middletown (Soccer): Lombardo has been a consistent force for the Blue Dragons, scoring five goals and dishing out four assists over the first four games. The senior captain is leading a strong squad at Middletown that enters the week undefeated, outscoring opponents 18-0 through the first four games.
Aysia Henderson- Middletown (Volleyball): Henderson had 10 kills in a come-from-behind five-set victory over Rocky Hill last Thursday. Fellow senior Makayla Thompson had seven aces as the Blue Dragons rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the opening match of the season.
Zack Randazzo- Cromwell (Soccer): Randazzo started the season with a bang, scoring four goals in the Panthers 12-0 shutout of North Branford last Thursday. The senior is helping assume the primary goal-scoring responsibilities left by 2019-graudate Anthony Caracoglia.
Gracie Manushi- Rocky Hill (Volleyball): Manushi had seven kills and served up nine aces in the Terriers hard fought five-set loss against Middletown. Manushi is one of a half dozen seniors who will look to lead the Terriers back into the state tournament following a four-win season in 2019.
Mike Bohlke / Sam Geisler- Newington (Cross Country): Bohlke and Geisler were top-place finishers as Newington opened the season with a victory over Platt. The returning all-state runners head a strong team at NHS that is coming off a top-three finish at the Class L finals in 2019.
Olivia Thompson- Wethersfield (Swim & Dive): Thompson won both the 200 and 100 Freestyle events as the Eagles defeated Newington 102-73 in the opening meet of the season. The captain is one of nine seniors on a deep Wethersfield squad.
Cromwell volleyball coach Tracie Capodice flanked by team captains Driona Statovci, Alexandra Umelo (left) and Jasmine Hampton, Brynn Kovacs (right)
Not long ago, high school volleyball was in a similar position as football over whether to play with the current concerns over COVID-19.
The 2020 high school volleyball season was on the brink of extinction before a series of concessions, including requiring players to wear mask, allowed fall’s only indoor sport to proceed.
Head coach Tracie Capodice and her Cromwell Panthers spent most of the summer in a state on uncertainty and are now quickly rebuilding and learning on the fly, “We weren’t allowed to go inside at all until last week. For a long time, we were on the track, on the tennis courts, so you make do with what you have. We were forced to work on basics, we were forced to work on fundamentals, which is great because we have such a young team this year. We have a lot of new faces, so it was nice to have a fun environment. We were able to go outside, adjust to the mask and have some fun with it.”
Cromwell is coming off a stellar season last fall, winning 17 games including a straight sets tournament win over Classical in the first round of the Class S tourney.
All-state outside hitter Sadie Budzik and setter Kaitlin Lewkowicz graduated, leaving a sizable production and leadership void.
“It’s going to be hard, but the girls have stepped up and they’ve shown so much through the adversity,” added Capodice, “These girls have just been amazing. They’re mentally tough, they’re prepared.”
Returning captain Driona Statovci is both confident and thankful heading into the season, “Last year I had experience at being a captain and I have the other captains to help me, so it’s pretty much business as usually but it’s been hard to adjust with all the new stuff that has happened. I’m just grateful that we have a season right now. I think it’s brought us closer together. Things happen we can’t really control, but we have to try our best and keep working hard.”
Statovci is returning to her libero position after leading the team with 235 digs in 2019, “We’ve had a lot of changes on our team, but our main thing is adapting to them and working with them. Each game is going to be a challenge now that we have new hitters and a new setter, but as long as we work together and communicating, we should be good.”
Joining Statovci in the captain chairs are Alexandra Umelo, Brynn Kovacs, and Jasmine Hampton.
Umelo played in nearly every set a season ago and is embracing her new captain’s role, “It’s something that I’ve always done. I’m just trying to go one-on-one with each player and trying to help them get the basics down, especially now we have to be more lenient and patient. We actually get to slow down and teach them the skill.”
The senior middle hitter played Huskie (club) volleyball in the offseason, prepping her for her senior year.
Capodice called both her senior captains “incredible kids”, credited them for four years of hard work.
Hampton is a junior captain, aiming to make an impact at the varsity level, “I think our biggest challenge has been trying to get everything into one practice, because the practices are so much shorter than they were last year. I feel confident, I have my teammates to help me and they are always staying positive and giving good advice. We have each other as a team to stay positive.”
Kovacs, a sophomore, is the youngest captain, “I’m taking this opportunity to step up and take that leadership role to show the younger players, because I was in their position last year and I know what it’s like. I just want to help them get to where I am now.”
Capodice will rely on several young players this season and Kovac provides a great example for the incoming freshman, “Brynn has stepped us tremendously since last year. She went from being a weakside to a starting outside hitter, and that’s a big change.”
Fellow sophomores Anahya Demers (setter) and Dasani Storey have also been thrust into starting roles.
The youthful Panthers have already battled through a challenging offseason and will now began a season full of adjustments.
Along with wearing masks, the regular season schedule has been cut in half to 10 matches, and they will not have the support of spectators at home games due to safety concerns.
“We’re just happy to be out there. Whatever they’re going to tell us to do, we are going to do it. It’s been an adjustment just because things change so often. I could find something out as soon as we walk into the gym and you just have to make the change and go with it. You have to be able to adjust on the fly this year,” said Capodice, who navigated the team through the uncertain offseason by staying in constant communication with her players, “I’ve been honest with them since day one. They’re in high school now, they need to be told the truth. I don’t want to get their hopes up and then all of a sudden they get shot down. I just wanted to give them the truth every step of the way. As a coach I’m always positive, every day. When we come into this gym you’ve got to be ready to go and we’re happy that we are here.”
So far the biggest adjustment has been the masks, which must be worn before, during and after competition.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment. It can be pretty hard to breath at times, but if it lets us play then we’ll do it,” said Kovac, “Some of the things that have happened around here have been very discouraging, but you can’t let that get to you. We just have to always stay positive and the rest will fall into place.”
No matter the obstacles, the girls are happy to be together and for a chance to play.
“I’m just looking forward to getting out there and just being in the moment with my teammates,” said Umelo.
“I’m excited to play the first match and help out the younger players improve,” added Hampton.
Last Thursday, the Panthers dropped their first match of the season, losing in three sets to the 2019 Class S runner-up Hale Ray.
Win or lose, in a year of uncertainty, Capodice’s message to her team remains consistent.
“I tell them all the time, it’s one game at a time with us. Never look ahead, look at what we have coming up.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin