GHS seniors Evelyn Brenton (left) and Meghan Cegielski get ready for a serve against Coventry on Oct. 25. Brenton and Cegielski were two of seven seniors celebrated on Senior Night against East Hartford on Oct. 27.
Following a head coaching change and a loss to Simsbury, Glastonbury High School volleyball responded with a victory over Coventry on Oct. 25 and then closed the regular season with a Senior Night triumph over East Hartford on Oct. 27.
In a four-set win (25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 25-11) over Coventry, senior captain Evelyn Brenton had 12 kills and four blocks to propel the Guardians to victory.
The win came on the heels of a disappointing three-set home loss to Simsbury the previous night.
Brenton said the team entered the game against Coventry with a little extra motivation.
“We weren’t in the right mindset. If we had a chance to replay them we would do a lot better,” Brenton said of the Simsbury loss. “We just tried to keep our confidence up.”
Melissa Reynolds, who took over the head coaching duties prior to the Simsbury game, said the team didn’t respond well defensively against Simsbury and tweaked a few things before to the bout with Coventry.
“Coventry is a ridiculously good serving team too and we wanted to respond better than we did against Simsbury,” said Reynoldd, who previously coached the varsity program from 2000-2009. “Instead of shutting down and letting it get into our heads, we stayed positive and I felt like we improved on that.”
Reynolds started the season as the junior varsity coach before recently taking over the varsity duties as well, replacing Tony Sanith, who departed for personal reasons.
Benton, who is one of seven seniors, said it took a few days for the team to get used to the coaching translation before they turned the page by remaining positive.
“We just came together as a team and we thought of what we could do to make everything okay for us. We stuck together,” added Brenton. “Melissa was a really good big help with that. She tried to keep us calm and stable, and wanted to keep everyone happy and upbeat.”
Coventry entered GHS on a six-match winning streak and it took some time for the Guardians to find their footing against the visiting Patriots.
After dropping the first four points in the opening set and then falling behind 16-10, Glastonbury responded by reeling off nine of the next 11 points to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Benton started the scoring spree with a block and senior Meghan Cegielski had a pair of kills during the run. Kayla Valenches ended the set with a soft tap over the net.
Reynolds credited the 6’2” Benton for her leadership and adaptability, saying she was naturally a middle hitter but has moved to the outside so the team could utilize her skills on both levels.
“She has really stepped into the role. She’s learning a whole new position while being a leader,” said Reynolds. “She has shown tremendous growth. I’m proud of how well she’s responded.”
After dropping the second set and falling behind early in the third set, the Guardians again responded by closing the set on an 11-3 run midway through the set, which was highlighted by a block by Benton.
Cegielski, who finished the match with 10 digs and nine kills, ended the set with a spike after junior libero Rebecca Lavoie had two diving digs, including a nifty one-hander.
With the momentum firmly on their side, Glastonbury jumped out to a quick lead in the decisive fourth set and never looked back. Benton had a thunderous spike during an eight-point run and then had a kill to seal the match.
Reynold’s daughter, freshman setter McKenna Reynold, came off the bench to spark the team in the win, dishing up a team-high 21 assists.
Benton said she liked how the team responded to the loss to Simsbury and during the adversity against Coventry, adding, “When everyone is positive and we move a lot and we talk a lot, we can be really good.”
Two nights later, the Guardians celebrated the celebrated the seven seniors on Senior Night.
Benton, Cegielski, Valenches, Jordyn Mik, Emily Wallace, Sarah Wild, and Anna Morris were honored prior to the team beating the Hornet of East Hartford in three-sets. The win wrapped up a 13-6 regular season for Glastonbury.
Reynolds, who knew most of the seniors prior to the season from coaching club volleyball, said the seasoned seven have welcomed her in with open arms.
“They’re great; they are all leaders,” Reynolds said of her seniors, “Some of them I’ve known for a really long time; they really helped lead the whole transition.”
With the Class LL state tournament staring next week, Benton said the seniors are cherishing each game on the court, adding, “We want to do our best every game. We want to end with a bang and leave our mark at Glastonbury.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin