by MICHAEL LETENDRE
Sure, the program is in great hands now with Stefanie Reay at the helm as she brings in a wealth of experience, knowledge and leadership to the position.
The current coach has been around the Eastern program for several years and now, Reay will be leading the Lancers against the very best of what the Central Connecticut Conference has to offer.
But Rivoira is no longer hanging around the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in the fall anymore and that seems weird all in itself.
And it seemed the same way when Gail Ericson, Rivoira’s volleyball coach when she attended Eastern, stepped down from coaching the Lancers as well.
And while the duo – who also coached and mentored the Eastern squad together for quite some time – were often seen together at the school on King Street, those two outstanding coaches are now hanging around that other public school in town.
One of the strangest sights to see recently is both the Ericson and Rivoira clans wearing the maroon and white colors of Bristol Central after so many years of blue and grey allegiance.
Even former Bristol Eastern football coach Dave Mills has been seen wearing Bristol Central gear.
Has the world gone completely mad?
No, two special student athletes named Emily Ericson and Carson Rivoira attend Bristol Central and play several sports at the Charles C. Marsh gymnasium so the change of sportswear is quite understandable.
But, for us long time Bristol sports junkies, the change of educational street address by those families – which has happened to many generations in town – is certainly worthy of discussion.
Especially because both Ericson and Rivoira were outstanding coaches who achieved at the highest level for the Lancers’ volleyball program.
And before Reay, there were only two coaches who held the reigns of the Bristol Eastern volleyball program since 1982.
Guess the two?
The duo both won championships and coached in some of the states best matches ever played on the court.
Ericson and Rivoira’s squads rarely made mistakes and it was always about fundamentals.
Game play was always of the highest level, always of the highest caliber and that’s why the Lancers had one of the toughest non-CCC South schedules in the state.
Ericson is a Bristol Sports Hall of Famer and in the mid 1970s, she was one of the top female athletes at Eastern.
In 1982, Ericson – then Gail McMahon – took over Bristol Eastern volleyball and quickly turned the program into a state contender as the team soon entered the CCC South and went to battle against Southington and the two Meriden schools at least twice a year.
Her teams saw the best competition and beat most of those other CCC South programs.
23 years later, and with Rivoria as one of her assistants towards the end of her tenure, Ericson had three state titles in hand, 332 victories, and five league titles over a Hall-of-Fame coaching career.
Her teams won a Class M championship in 1987 and Class L titles in 1991 and 2005.
And that 1987 squad had a nifty setter by the name of Stacy Mills (Rivoira).
Rivoira nearly followed suit in titles as Ericson and her teams went to three title games, winning two.
In her first season, Rivoira’s charges won the Class L title in 2006 and then six years later, it was a repeat performance.
She coached at Eastern for nearly 25 years and over her final 14 seasons, she was the outstanding head coach of the program.
CCC South titles were almost a given under her reign as coach (a lucky number 13 to be exact).
Rivoira mostly coached from a seated position on the bench, watching her game-plan unfold as her players rose to each unique challenge.
But if Rivoira was standing, watch out!
Most of her squads had to battle the top squads of Class L year in and year out and the Lancers were usually in the quarterfinal postseason mix most of Rivoira’s seasons.
One of her crowning achievements was being able to coach her daughter Aliana – who easily could have been the 2018-19 Bristol Observer Female Athlete of the Year – and once she graduated from the program as one of its all-time great setters, the excellent coach stepped down from the Lancers’ program.
Rivoira admitted it would be strange not going to Eastern every day after her teaching job at Greene-Hills but her free time was quickly filled up.
She gets the pleasure of watching Carson play soccer and in the winter, he’ll be hitting the hardwood again.