Woodstock pg 9 9-13-18

WOODSTOCK — It’s a nice situation to be in.
“This is probably one of my most seasoned teams that I have had in a long time. They don’t seem nervous about things, they don’t seem to let things get to them, they’re laid back which is a nice atmosphere to have,” said Woodstock Academy girls’ volleyball coach Adam Bottone.
The Centaurs have a lot to live up to.
Last season, they finished runners up in Class L, losing to RHAM of Hebron in the state championship match, 3-0.
“We definitely had a great season last year,” said senior setter Sammie Orlowski. “It’s still too early in the season to say where we will end up and we’re still figuring out where we are right now but I want to get back there and prove that we can win. Being second last year was a bummer, getting that far and losing in the end was hard, but we were able to make it that far and the players on this team are strong enough to make it there again.”\
The Centaurs showed what they were made of in their first match, rallying from a two-set deficit for a 3-2 win over East Lyme Sept. 7.
The players, for the most part, are the same.
Only three key players graduated from last year’s team, outside hitter Caroline Eaton, defensive specialist Hannah Walley and middle hitter Denali Johns.
Paula Hernandez, who came to the team midway through last season and sparked a 20-match win streak that lasted until the state championship match, returns as a junior.
“I asked the team what type of people do we want to portray ourselves to be. Do we just care about ourselves and our playing time or do we want someone to come in and, potentially, help the team. At the time I had that talk, I had no idea about her abilities,” Bottone said about Hernadez’s arrival on the scene.
The team quickly found out how good the then-sophomore was, some of them quickly learning to retreat when she wound up her arm.
That has changed.
“They have that year under their belt, know what (Hernandez) is capable of, and how she makes the team better. I watch them practice and if she gets up there and rips one, they aren’t running out of the way, they’re digging her this year. They get excited when they do and she gets excited when they dig her. That two months we had with her last year, really helped build that relationship,” Bottone said.
Hernandez, who finished with 295 kills, 212 digs, 48 aces and 154 service points, should be even better this season.
She played for the Husky Club from Windsor and was a member of its highest 16U team which played in the Nationals in Chicago over the summer.
“She played from the day after the season ended, every week, multiple days a week with the highest level team in New England,” Bottone said. “They had the best of the best on that team.”
Not everyone got that much playing time in the offseason which Bottone admits to being a bit of a concern.
Orlowski (703 assists) returns at setter, but may also see time at opposite hitter.
“She can hit the ball rather effectively so I’m flirting with the idea of running a 6-2 with Natalie (Low) because Natalie can set. I have a lot of options,” Bottone said.
Eaton started at outside hitter, but moved over to opposite when Hernandez entered the picture. Eaton’s 304 kills and 146 digs will be difficult to replace.
Junior Katie Papp will be in the middle along with a trio of newcomers, sophomores Sierra Bedard and Amelia Large and senior Danuse Horka.
Horka hails from the Czech Republic while Marta Cuenca Sabuco, a defensive specialist from Spain, adds to the international flavor of the squad.
Senior Maddy Gronski (508 digs, 482 service returns) comes back at Libero with help from sophomore Marissa Mayhew.
Seniors Emma Green, Rachel Durand, Bekah Wesler and McKenna Gagnon will man the back line.
The familiarity, in this case, could breed success.
“Our first practice (this season) wasn’t our best practice, but it was pretty close to our last practice last year,” Orlowski said.
The Centaurs, who finished 23-4, will need to be on their game from the start.
The target will be large and they can expect only the best efforts from their opponents.
“Last year was kind of unexpected so that may have affected some of our wins and losses, but this year, everybody will be ready for us,” Orlowski said.
The Centaurs have been bumped up to Division I in the Eastern Connecticut Conference this season.
“(East Lyme coach) Jack (Biggs) always has East Lyme prepared; (coach) Steve (Banks) has a good, young group at Fitch; NFA may have a little learning curve with a new coach but that’s a big school that you always have to compete against,” Bottone said. “I’m glad to be back in Division I because the divisional games will always be a challenge.”
The Centaurs fell behind the Vikings in the season opener for both when East Lyme won the first two sets, 27-25 and 25-16.
But Woodstock Academy avoided the loss by taking the next two sets 25-17 and 25-22 and easily won the fifth and deciding set, 15-4.
Hernandez led the Centaurs with 34 kills while Low added 20.
Orlowski chipped in with 47 assists.
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director
The Woodstock Academy


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