Here’s a look at the top players, storylines and games to watch for the 2021 CIAC girls volleyball season.
Meredith Asplund, Jr., S, Joel Barlow: Asplund will run the offense as setter on a team which has won eight consecutive SWC championships.
Katie Brand, Jr., L, Ridgefield: The junior libero had more than 100 digs in 10 matches last fall.
Maggie Ferguson, Sr., S, Pomperaug: The setter returns to lead the Panthers’ offense this fall.
Leilani Gillespie, Jr. MH, Darien: Gillespie will be one of the top weapons on a Darien team which is among the FCIAC favorites. She had 93 kills and 40 aces in 12 matches as a sophomore last fall.
Mackenzie Grady, Sr.,OH, Lyman Hall: A four-year varsity starter, Grady is a fantastic defender and attacker with a tough serve. In her career, she has 307 kills, 562 digs and 75 aces.
Ally Hadley, Jr., OH, RHAM: The junior Raptor had a fine season as a sophomore, collecting 74 kills and 68 digs in 13 matches.
Emily Hart, Jr., L, Platt: The libero returns after a solid sophomore season in which she had 88 aces, 70 digs and 50 kills in 13 matches.
Kaylee Jackson, Sr., OH/MB, Naugatuck: The senior can do it all for the Greyhounds and has played all six positions during her career. She led Naugatuck with 143 kills last fall, and is a three-time All-NVL and two-time All-State selection.
Grace Kantor, Sr., S, Jonathan Law: The returning senior setter racked up 221 assists, 26 aces and 24 digs last fall.
Halle Krause, OH/S, Guilford: Guilford graduated a lot, but Krause will be a key in keeping the Grizzlies in contention in the SCC. She had 50 digs, 38 aces, 32 kills and 27 assists last year.
Jamie McPartland, Sr., OH, Trumbull: The Eagles lost a lot to graduation, but McPartland will fill some of that void and provide offensive firepower.
Grace Miller, Jr., OH, Newtown: The outside hitter returns for her junior year as Newtown looks to contend for SWC and state crowns.
Avery Mola, Jr., MH/OH, Cheshire: Mola is a key returning hitter after pacing the Rams with 101 kills as a sophomore. She also had 28 aces and 18 blocks.
Nyssa Park, Sr., S, Conard: The All-CCC setter was an All-State Class L second team selection last year, and is on the preseason All-American watch list this fall.
Jocelyn Powers, Jr., S, Avon: The Falcons’ setter racked up 267 assists, 102 digs and 23 assists as a sophomore.
Jane Ransome, Sr., OH, Ludlowe: The outside hitter returns for her senior season after racking up 106 kills and 109 digs in 12 games last fall.
Jillian Roche, Jr. OH, Darien: An outside hitter, Roche did a bit of everything for the Wave last fall, collecting 63 kills, 65 digs and 44 aces. She’ll again be a factor in the FCIAC race this season.
Victoria Santi, Sr., L, Cheshire: One of the SCC’s top liberos, Santo collected a team-best 87 digs last season.
Liana Sarkissian, Sr., MB, Greenwich: An imposing presence at the net, Sarkissian is a big hitter and was second on the team with 22 blocks as a junior.
Kendall Scholz, Jr., OH, Wilton: Coming off a fine sophomore season, Scholz will again be a force in the FCIAC this fall.
Ally Schwartz, Sr., OH, Staples: The senior hitter is a top offensive weapon for a contending Staples squad.
Adele Sotgiu, Sr., OH/L, Greenwich: Sotgiu is a key veteran for the Cards, who were 12-0 last season. A standout defender with, she had a team-high 38 aces and was named to the GameTimeCT All-State second team last year.
Lily Stevens, Soph., OH, New Canaan: An outstanding outside hitter, Stevens made an immediate impact with the Rams have a freshman last fall.
Jessica Timothy, Sr., OH, Haddam-Killingworth: Had a hitting percentage of .374 with 170 kills and 62 digs while helping Haddam-Killingworth go 13-0 last fall.
Katelyn Wankier, Jr., OH, Avon: Wankier stepped up when the Falcons were beset with injuries last fall. She returns as a prime weapon after collecting 100 kills and 26 blocks.
MASKED UP, PART TWO: The hope was last season would be a one-off, but a year later, volleyball players are again going to wear masks during competition, a result of the surge in the Delta variant of COVID. It was a difficult adjustment last season, but the players persevered in order to play the indoor sport. Unlike last year, teams will switch sides between sets and teams won’t be as spread out on the sidelines as they were last year. Post game handshakes will not take place yet again, with players instead giving waves to their opponents from the court baselines.
CROSS CONFERENCE: No longer limited to regional “pods,” the 2021 season will see the return of inter-conference play. Newtown and Darien will jump start their rivalry on Sept. 13, and the Nighthawks are also scheduled to face the FCIAC’s St. Joseph and Ludlowe, and the ECC’s Woodstock Academy and East Lyme. Darien also has Woodstock Academy as well as Brookfield on its slate, with defending Class LL champion Trumbull squaring off against a pair of CCC teams in Avon and Southington. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as the state tournaments will also feature some prime match-ups.
DYNASTIES ARE BACK: With the return of full seasons and tournaments, dynasties are also back in play. At the state level, Lyman Memorial has appeared in five consecutive Class S finals, winning three titles, including in 2018 and 2019. In Class M, Seymour has won two straight and three of the last four championships. In the SWC, Joel Barlow’s streak of eight consecutive conference crowns is intact, while RHAM has won four straight CCC titles.
FCIAC DOMINANCE: The Class LL tournament has become close to an FCIAC party in recent years, as the conference has had a team in the final for eight straight seasons, with six championships. Darien won twice (2012 and 2014) , with Ludlowe (2015), Stamford (2016), Greenwich (2017) and Trumbull (2019) winning one apiece. In three of the last five years, two FCIAC teams have squared off in the final, interrupted only by Amity, which was the runner-up in 2017, and defeated Darien for the 2018 championship. With teams such as Darien, Greenwich and New Canaan looking strong this year, the FCIAC could be in line for yet another title, although teams such as Cheshire, Amity and Newtown, among others, will stand in the way.
STEPPING UP: The senior class from 2020 was loaded with talent. Of the 24 players named to the GameTimeCT All-State first and second teams, 22 were seniors and just only one player is returning to play high school volleyball this season. That level of talent doesn’t come along often and makes the lost opportunity to see those seniors go head-to-head and vie for the usual conference and state championships all the more disappointing. On the other hand, the door is now wide open for younger players to step into the spotlight. It’s a new group’s time to shine in 2021.
Games to watch
Woodstock Academy at Darien, Sept. 10, 4 p.m.: An impressive road trip for the Centaurs, who are traveling 240 miles round-trip to take on the Blue Wave. Woodstock has been one of the top teams in the ECC for years and Darien, of course, is one of the state’s elite programs.
Cheshire at Guilford, Sept. 27, 5:30 p.m.: A possible SCC championship match-up, although several other teams will have a say before we get there. Cheshire won back-to-back SCC championships in 2017 and 2018, with Guilford taking the crown in 2019. The Grizzlies host this match, before traveling to Cheshire for a second meeting on Oct. 18.
Greenwich at Darien, Oct. 3, 4 p.m.: The two FCIAC contenders met three times last season and although the Cardinals swept those matches, two went to five sets, including a thrilling FCIAC West championship contest. Some key players are gone from both teams, but the talent is still there for both to compete for conference and state titles.
Joel Barlow at Newtown, Oct. 15, 5:30 p.m.: Barlow has won eight consecutive SWC championships from 2012 to 2019, and Newtown will be one of the prime challengers to end that streak this fall. The two teams were division champions last year – Newtown in the North and Barlow in the South. After this contest, they’ll play again at Barlow on Oct. 27.
New Canaan at Trumbull, Oct. 23, 6:30 p.m.: An intriguing FCIAC match-up which was missed during last year’s abbreviated season. In 2019, New Canaan shut out the Eagles during the regular season, but Trumbull returned the favor in the FCIAC quarterfinals before going on to win the Class LL title. Both are in the tournament mix again this season.
[email protected]; @dstewartsports
Please go to CTPost.com HS News Feed to read full article.