After going to the finals in 2013 and 2015 and coming up empty, Lyman Memorial won its first Class S volleyball title last year. Following the season, longtime baseball coach Marty Gomez, who had coached volleyball for seven years, handed over the program to his assistant, Amanda Nappi.
The cupboard was far from bare; eight seniors return for Lyman, which is 7-0.
"I tell the kids all the time, we've built a reputation for Lyman volleyball," said Nappi, a Windham High graduate. "We're not going to sneak up on anybody right now."
Andee Bender, last year's championship game MVP, graduated as did Katy Konow and Abby Bundy, who are all playing in college. But Lyman returned libero Katee Meese, outside hitters Emerson Baily and Leah Vichas, and setter Meg Verizzi.
Lyman has a big match coming up Oct. 4 against unbeaten Killingly. The Bulldogs also will face Class L champion RHAM in the last regular season match on Oct. 28.
"Last year was the first time we played [RHAM]," Nappi said. "We went into that game 19-0 and got smacked, 3-0. It was exactly what we needed to keep us humble and focused. We didn't lose another match after that."
Fresh Start For Farmington
Farmington graduated eight seniors from a team that lost to RHAM in the Class L championship game last year.
"There have been lots of opportunities for new players," Farmington coach Laura Arena said. "We don't have a lot of varsity experienced players."
Seniors Kelly Swidorsky and Caroline Summa are the key offensive players who are back, and junior Carolyn Piera is the libero, while junior Natasha Silva has emerged as the setter.
Farmington (5-0) will face some tough opponents over the next week, starting with Southington Friday, Avon Monday, Bristol Eastern Oct. 4 and a championship game rematch against RHAM Oct. 6.
"We're going into a very challenging stretch," Arena said.
Coventry Starts Fast
Coventry, which lost in the Class S semifinals to Hale-Ray last year, is 7-0 despite graduatinga number of seniors. But the addition of 6-foot-1 senior outside hitter Colleen McAvoy has helped Coventry. McAvoy grew up in Coventry and moved to Washington, where she played for Camas High School, but she returned to Connecticut this year.
"She's been a huge boost for us," coach Ryan Giberson said. "She's a phenomenal player. Sometimes you don't know how kids are going to fit in, but it's been good."
McAvoy, who is right-handed, has a ligament strain in her right elbow and has been hitting left-handed and has still been a force on the team.
Julia Rutkowski is also a senior outside hitter, while Kaitlyn Sistare is a senior middle hitter and Maggie Ziko is a senior libero. Junior Hannah LeVasseur is the team's setter.
"We lost a lot of seniors, so we're kind of lacking in how much they've played together as a unit," Giberson said. "Colleen is a big help, but the other kids have improved a lot with each match."
Coventry beat Hale-Ray last Wednesday 3-0 in a Class S semifinal rematch.