Preview of 2018 high school volleyball

Waterford's Olivia Gianakos (10) rises to make a kill during a match against Killingly last season. Gianakos returns to help lead the Lancers, who reached the ECC Division II final in 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Waterford's Olivia Gianakos (10) rises to make a kill during a match against Killingly last season. Gianakos returns to help lead the Lancers, who reached the ECC Division II final in 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

ECC Division I

East Lyme

Coach: Jack Biggs (21st year)

Key returnees: Sr. OH Sydney Iannantuono, Sr. S Kamryn Ebersole, Jr. L Sophie Dubreuil, Jr. OH Mya Delesdernier, Sr. MH Katie Solinsky, Jr. DS Ellie Meredith.

Top newcomers: Sr. MH Ava Sheehan, Jr. DS Kelly LaPlante, Jr. DS Olivia Waites, Sr. DS Briana Barroga, Jr. RS Arielle Vaglio, So. S/DS Jaylyn Mueller, So. OH/DS Brooklyn Geida, So. MH Ellie McCoy.

Outlook: The Vikings won the ECC Division I title before losing in the second round to eventual Class L champion RHAM in 2017. They must replace libero Madison Bell, The Day's All-Area Player of the Year, but return All-Area pick Iannantuono and a core group of players that saw quality varsity time a year ago. Biggs will rely on his senior leaders, noting that defense and serving will be key to another successful run in Division I.

Fitch

Coach: Steve Banks (23rd year)

Key returnees: Sr. L Aby Hagley, Sr. MH Maryah Dart, Jr. MH Nora Ryan, Sr. S/DS Olivia Carney, Sr. OH Lauren Davison, Sr. DS Angie Doak, Sr. OH Ciarra Jimenez.

Top newcomers: Jr. S Karly Morales, Jr. RS Aria Lupo, Sr. OH Lili Brown, Jr. OH Nyseannah Ishmael, So. DS Marlo Sim.

Outlook: The Falcons went 10-10 during the regular season, but return virtually their entire team in 2018, including the talented Ryan, an ECC all-star and a member of The Day's All-Area team last year. "Strong serving, a versatile attack and solid defense will help improve our results," said Banks, who expects Fitch to make a run at the Division I title and in the Class L state tournament. Woodstock Academy moves up to Division I this season.

NFA

Coach: Ryan Czaja (1st year)

Key returnees: Sr. OH Eliana Jewell, Sr. S Isabella Llano, Sr. D Abby Bradford, Jr. OH Maya Conley, So. S Sara Ericson.

Outlook: Czaja, an assistant the past two seasons, replaces Bill Howard as head coach. The Wildcats went 9-9 during the 2017 regular season, but must replace some experienced players. They do return one of the ECC's best players in outside hitter Jewell, an ECC all-star and member of The Day's All-Area team last year. There will be some obstacles with a new coaching staff and demanding schedule, but Czaja has been impressed with the athleticism and competitiveness during the preseason.

ECC Division II

Ledyard

Coach: Rich Duwelius (6th year)

Key returnees: Sr. MH Brooke Carrender, Sr. MH Miranda Chesnut, Sr. S Megan Haydash, Sr. OH Katie Krupansky, Sr. S Morgan Riewerts.

Top newcomers: So. S Hanna Avila, Jr. DS Chloe DeMaio, Jr. DS McKayla Finkelstein, Sr. MH Alexys Hanes, Jr. DS Jessica Juoni, So. OH Kira Kassim, Sr. DS Sarah Moynihan, Jr. OH Tajeah Winston.

Outlook: Despite the loss of eight seniors, Duwelius expects the Colonels (8-14 last season) to compete for the Division II title. Ledyard returns five experienced varsity players and has some promising newcomers that should contribute immediately and give the Colonels more balance and depth.

Waterford

Coach: Matt Maynard (5th year)

Key returnees: Sr. S Gretchen Dusza, Sr. MH Olivia Pacheco, Sr. MH Olivia Gianakos, Jr. MH Rachel Miller, Jr. OH Ryleigh Gonyo.

Top newcomers: Sr. L Jenny Keth, OH Ellie Lokken.

Outlook: The Lancers went 12-6 during the regular season a year ago and reached the ECC Division II tournament final before losing to Lyman Memorial, so Maynard is expecting big things with a strong group of returning players. Pacheco was an ECC honorable mention pick last season and provides a strong presence in the middle with Gianakos and Miller. Waterford expects to challenge for the Division II title and make some noise in the Class M state tournament.

ECC Div. III

Montville

Coach: Lauren Bynon (2nd year)

Key returnees: Sr. OH Haley Kerwin, Sr. MB Savanna Perkins, Sr. OH Ashley Rewers, Sr. S Ashley Rogers, Sr. S Mackenzie Ullrich, Sr. RS Nia Muckenthaler, Sr. L Abby Diamantini, Sr. RS Megan Rewers, Sr. OH Tessa Rummel, Jr. DS Gabby Beal.

Top newcomers: Jr. RS Mackenzie Clark, Jr. DS Isabella Butzgy, Fr. MB Maya Hillman.

Outlook: The Indians went 7-13 a year ago, but a winning season is definitely possible this fall with the return of a large and experienced senior class led by Diamantini, an All-ECC honorable mention pick in 2017. Bynon also expects some talented newcomers to provide depth and challenge some of Montville's older players for varsity time.

ECC Division IV

New London

Coach: Missy Parker (1st year)

Key returnees: Sr. MH Marissa Parker, Sr. OH Natalia Paul, Sr. OH Yamilka Ramos, Jr. L Shannon Huang, So. S Nahiomy Ramos, So. MH Caylee Parker.

Top newcomers: Jr. S/DS Chalet Cintron, Fr. S/DS Wennonah Amar, Fr. S/DS Anija Thomas, Jr. OH Eliza Brown.

Outlook: Parker takes over a young New London team that has been working hard and improving during the preseason. The Whalers do have some players with varsity experience and Parker expects the program to be competitive in Division IV and challenge for a state tournament bid.

Others

Grasso Tech

Coach: John Blake (8th year)

Key returnees: Sr. S Cassandra Beaumont, Sr. OH Haley Beal, Sr. S Michelle Warren, Sr. S Erin Blake, Sr. OH Heather Carlin, Sr. OH Violette Abad, So. Samariie Delgado.

Top newcomers: So. S Chelsea Lorenzo, So. S/MB Amarie Mack.

Outlook: The Eagles return three starters and will rely on their seniors to bring along some of the younger players. Blake believes Grasso Tech, which struggled to a 1-18 record a year ago, has the potential to be competitive within the Connecticut Technical Conference and challenge for a state tournament bid.

Norwich Tech

Coaches: Tim and Deb Krodel (22nd year)

Key returnees: S. OH/S Riley Riewerts, Sr. OH/S Amaya Mendez.

Top newcomers: Sr. L Kellsey Gumbs, Sr. MB Karen Preza, Jr. RS Joharys Perez-Rivera, Jr. DS Ashley Williams, Jr. RS Shay Gaboury, So. RS Emma McKenzie, So. DS Paige Phaneuf.

Outlook: The Warriors went 15-7 a year ago and reached the second round of the Class S state tournament, but were decimated by the loss of nine seniors. This team is young and enthusiastic, but must go through some growing pains in order to compete for the Connecticut Technical Conference title and earn another trip to the state tournament.

Old Lyme

Coach: Erin Crayton (13th year)

Key returnees: Jr. MH Maddie Cann, Jr. MH Taylor Thompson.

Top newcomer: Jr. RS Chandler Munson.

Outlook: The Wildcats, who went 3-17 in the always competitive Shoreline Conference last year, will rely on a strong junior class this fall in order to inch closer to a .500 season and a Class S tournament berth. Crayton said Old Lyme's defensive game at the net will be one of its strengths.

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