By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – What should we expect from the scholastic volleyball team’s this year from Bristol?
Well, all three squads are going in different directions and graduation, of course, has changed the look of all three teams.
And certain questions come to mind for all three programs as well.
First, Bristol Eastern still employs a certain nifty setter but who will help her as Eastern looks to defend both their CCC South and CCC tournament hampionships?
Second, Bristol Central ended the 2013 campaign with a .500 ledger and, with most of the starters gone via graduation, is another 50-percent finish – or better – in the cards again?
Finally, St. Paul has a new coach in the wake of a major graduation so., is there a major rebuild in store for the Falcons?
Here’s a quick look at Bristol’s volleyball squads:
Coach: Jennifer Broderick
Overall Record: Broderick is 99-78 in ten seasons at Bristol Central
2013 Record: 11-11 overall (ranked No. 23 in the Class L tournament, the Rams fell to No. 7 Platt, 3-2, in the second round).
Conference Record: 8-6 (fourth place in the CCC South).
Subtractions: Lauren Vallee (middle hitter); Erin Palmquist (defense/libero); Lara Colegrove (setter); Hannah Lemek (middle hitter); MacKenzie Weber; Jenna Croasdale.
Players to watch: Cydney Martin (jr., outside hitter); Taylor Jacquemin (sr., outside hitter); Brittany Stancavage (jr., right side hitter/setter); Lillian Sundgren (sr., setter).
Quick Take: Like Bristol Eastern, Central lost several key contributors but there’s enough returning talent to keep the Rams competitive.
Cydney Martin, now a junior, has been contributing since her freshman campaign and expect more of the same from her in 2014.
She’ll be one of the major killers on the team this year.
After Martin, the squad that remains doesn’t have a ton of floor time at the varsity level.
But the ball movement should be there as senior Lillian Sundgren and junior Brittany Stancavage will look to replace out-going setter Lara Colegrove in the offense schemes.
Senior Taylor Jacquemin should smash some of those set-ups for kills and Central will be relying on her to score some points for the Bristol outfit.
Again, all the starters will have to contribute in order for Central to be successful once again in the always competitive CCC South.
Tough Games of the season: The Rams aren’t ducking any challengers against and Central will see some tough non-conference foes along the way as well.
On Sept. 13, the Rams travel to Groton to tangle with Fitch while on Sept. 19, 2013 Class L runner-up – Farmington – comes to town for a 6 p.m. showdown.
And three of the final four contests for the Rams includes Maloney (Oct. 20), Bristol Eastern (Oct. 23) and New Milford (Oct. 25). That’s not exactly easy competition.
Coach: Stacy Rivoira
Overall Record: Rivoira is 155-28 in nine seasons at Bristol Eastern
2013 Record: 21-3 overall (lost in the Class L semifinals to RHAM, 3-2)
Conference Record: 14-0 in CCC South, champions of the league (again) and CCC Tournament champions.
Subtractions: Jenna Rogenski (outside hitter, All CCC South); Cheyenne Orsi (outside hitter, All CCC South); Kaylee Cruz (middle); Brooke Johnson (defense); Kelly Quirion (outside hitter); Maggie Getler (defense).
Players to watch: Brianna Root (sr., setter, All CCC South, All State, All World); Savannah White (sr., middle hitter); Bailey Wyrebek (jr., defense); Angela Daley (jr., outside hitter)
Quick Take: Well, Eastern lost just about every starter except for one important piece.
And that’s senior setter Brianna Root.
Root is one of those extreme athletes who can do just about anything she wants on the court.
But she’s a leader first and foremost and, like a star point guard on the basketball court, Root will direct traffic on her court and drive the ship known as Bristol Eastern back into the playoff picture.
In 2013, she earned CCC South and All State honors along a very busy junior campaign.
Root tallied up over 700 assists in 2013 and expect some more of those unworldly numbers this season.
She’ll once again be one of the best setters in the state and her teammates need to be in position to turn those balls into kills.
Eastern lost that senior core and some untested players need to step up in a hurry and will take a little time adjusting on the court.
Senior Savannah White saw some minutes last season and the senior will have to pick up her production even more this year but certainly knows what to expect.
And there’s junior Bailey Wyrebek who exploded on the scene as a freshman as Eastern was marching towards the championship in 2012.
Like Root, Wyrebek is a spitfire, who is a reliable server and another player who helps to keep the offense flowing.
Junior Angela Daley should also be featured in the offensive schemes and when called upon last season, she gave Eastern some critical minutes and should be in a starting role this year.
It will be to the rest of the squad to step up and make it happen for the Lancers.
Tough Games of the season: From Wednesday, Sept. 17 to Wednesday, Sept. 24, Eastern might have their toughest slate of games this season.
In a four game stretch – throw Bulkeley out of there – the Lancers have to deal with always tough Maloney, Southington (Sept. 19), and then must travel to Woodstock Academy on Sept. 24 for a non-league engagement.
And then the Lancers have to tangle with both Class L finalists in two huge showdowns.
Eastern travels to Farmington on Oct. 3 while zips off to Hebron in a war with RHAM on Oct. 17.
The Lancers’ schedule isn’t for the weak of heart, obviously.
And once again, the Lancers will travel to Springfield, Massachusetts for the Volleyball Classic on Monday, Oct. 13.
Coach: Holly Willette (first season as head coach)
2013 Record: 3-17, did not qualify for the Class S tournament
Subtractions: Jackie Godsten (middle hitter), Alyssa D’Agostino (liberio); Ashley Kosikowski (defense); Jessica Jalbert (setter); Savannah Morin (outside hitter), Sarah McClay; Meredith Maynard (outside hitter); Sarah Martin (right side).
Players to watch: Sophia Penisse (so., outside/middle hitter).
Quick Take: A new coach takes over for the Falcons on the volleyball court this fall and Holly Willette is now in charge.
And Willette might be coming in just in time for a pretty substantial rebuilding project.
Overall, the St. Paul volleyball program has 39 girls and for a Class S school, those are some impressive numbers right off the bat.
But about half of those players are freshmen so the Falcons are a little short on experience to start the campaign.
Even as St. Paul employed several seniors last year, the squad only produced three victories and it will be interesting to see what Willette can do with – essentially – a brand new team.
There’s young talent in the mix and it there will be several tests right off the bat to get this group some badly needed experience.
Sophomore Sophia Penisse showed some ability last season as a hitter but it’s yet to be seen what the rest of the team will bring.
It certainly will be a one game at a time method the Falcons will employ this coming season.
Tough Games of the season: For such a young group, every stretch of games might be tough.
The Naugatuck Valley League is always full of challenges and matches against the likes of, say, Seymour are usually ever so tough.
And the non-league games aren’t any type of picnic either.
Over the past couple seasons, the Falcons have started a nice little rivalry with Terryville and will play the Kangaroos twice in 2014.
Those games will fall on Sept. 15 in Bristol (6 p.m.) while the rematch takes place in Terryville on Friday, Sept. 26 at 4:45 p.m.
St. Paul also has a non-conference date at Housatonic Regional on Oct. 2.
In conference play, the Falcons take on Seymour on Sept. 19 and Oct. 8 on the road.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE