GHS volleyball captains (l-r) Sara Rigatti, Anastasiya Andriyashko, and Kiley Feeney
The seniors on the Glastonbury volleyball team were freshmen when head coach Tony Sanith took over as the head coach of the girls’ varsity program in 2018.
Four years later, the five seniors helped guide the Guardians to an emphatic win in the opening round of the Class LL tournament, besting Hall High in straight sets (25-13, 25-9, 25-12) at GHS last Monday (Nov. 8).
“They’re a special group for me because of when they came in,” said Sanith. “These five know what the expectations are and they are competitive.”
Captains Sara Rigatti, Kiley Feeney, and Anastasiya Andriyashko, along with Madison Poetto and Sarah Lavoie are the handful of seniors that have been with Sanith since day one.
All five played roles in the tournament victory.
After the road Warriors from Hall scored the first three points in the opening set, Andriyashko had a pair of aces to steady the home team.
Later in the set, Feeney had 10 straight service points–including two aces—to provide the Guardians a commanding 19-8 advantage.
“The first few serves we were a little frantic but after we got our first kill our energy level picked up and we took it from there,” said Andriyashko.
Feeney added, “Once we started playing our game we got more confident. Those serves helped, but I can get a serve over but we have to continue with those points and that’s what we did.”
Feeney polished off the first set with a kill, assisted by setter Sara Wild, who finished with a game-high 27 helpers.
The Guardians led the second set from start to finish, aided by blocks from Evelyn Brenton and Kayla Valenches.
Brenton finished with eight kills and three blocks.
Rigatti, the team’s libero, made a pair of diving saves in the second set and perfectly placed a set over the net for a decisive point in the third set.
Rigatti said the team approached this game like they have approached everything this season, with a sense of urgency, “We knew this could be our last game in this gym, but we pushed that to the side and wanted to focus on getting the win and focus on getting to the next round.”
The third set was highlighted by an ace from Lavoie, a long rally ended by a kill from Valenches, and a block by Brenton to end the match.
Feeney, who finished with a match-high 11 digs, said that having Brenton upfront makes everything easier, adding “she can put away anything.”
The win marked the program’s first state tournament victory since a quarterfinal triumph over Fairfield Warde in the 2019.
“It felt amazing today, our whole front row was on fire today,” Andriyashko said. “Tonight after every single point we had confidence. I think our energy was really high and overall it was a great game.”
Rigatti added the team has been in the right mindset since the first day of practice, “I think we came in really strong. We were really excited for this season especially after not having a state tournament or CCC tournament last year. I think as captains we had a bigger role than the captains last year, and we were ready to take it on.”
Versatility, along with a deep bench were the key for Sanith’s squad
“A lot of our girls play in the offseason and play year-round, so they get that natural understanding of the game at a high speed,” said Sanith, “We just talk about playing with purpose. We have a lot of experience with our starters and a lot of depth on the bench as well. They challenge each other.”
Three days after the opening round victory, the Guardians would lose at Southington in three sets in the second round, ending the season and high school careers for the five seniors.
Despite the loss, the seniors have set the standard for future classes.
“I’ve connected with every single player here and I feel like I can talk to them about anything and overall the community that we’ve build here is great,” said Andriyashko
Feeney added, “We have each other’s back no matter what.”
Overall the team won 17 matches this season. Brenton, who led the team in kills and blocks, and Wild, who led the team in assists and aces, will lead a talented group returning next fall.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin