Volleyball preview: After breakthrough season, Wilton aims higher

Coming off its best season in nearly a decade, the Wilton High volleyball team opens the 2017 season on Friday brimming with confidence, says head coach Steve Brienza.

Last year’s team finished 9-12, which was the most wins by Wilton since 2007, and was also the first Wilton team to make the state playoffs in nine years.

Despite losing several players who keyed last year’s success, the Warriors are looking to continue their climb up the FCIAC ranks.

“We are hoping to have a few more wins and seeking a return trip to the state tournament and possibly hosting a state game,” said coach Brienza. “I have a great deal of confidence in our team and every athlete that is on our roster. They work hard in practice and continue to improve every time they get on the court.”

The Warriors graduated Ava Martinelli, a defensive specialist who was third-team all-FCIAC, and Rachel Low, a setter who earned all-FCIAC honorable mention recognition The team also graduated three other seniors who were part of the regular rotation in Hayley Meyer (opposite), Sarah Souza (outside hitter) and Kat Aznaran (middle blocker), along with defensive specialist Isabella Jones.

But three other starters return in senior outside hitter Sommer Rogg and senior middle blocker Addie Tanzman, who are co-captains, and junior outside hitter Juliana Musilli. Also back is another veteran in senior defensive specialist Sophie Phelan.

“Sommer and Juliana are two of the most dynamic and powerful outside hitters in our league, as well as excellent defenders. The combination of them with libero Sophie Phelan is going to make our opponents work to put the ball down,” Brienza said.

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The Warriors will be looking for big contributions from three players who were on the JV team last year (and were on the team’s state tournament roster) — junior middle blockers Kiana Nobumoto and Cate McCabe, and sophomore setter Johanna Knox.

Other newcomers include senior defensive specialist Julia Bonnist, senior Alison Wendman, and juniors Shanna Kosar, Yaskika Nana and Shikah Shah.

“Our biggest strength is going to be our attack. We have a very versatile attacking core that can hit from any spot on the floor and challenge our opponents defensive strategy,” said Brienza. “Most of our attacking front are returning varsity starters, with new varsity members filling in those that graduated. The complement of veteran players to newcomers is beginning to come together as they've played in the pre-season.”

Brienza said the serving consistency will be a big factor if the Warriors hope to find success.

“We had some inconsistencies at service line last season in big moments. That is something that will need to be corrected for us to keep control of matches,” he said. “In addition, we have a new setter running the offense and it is critical for our team’s performance that we are able to run offense when our setter is taken out on defense.”

But those question marks aside, Brienze is confident Wilton will put it all together for another breakthrough season.

“The seniors on this team thrive in competition. That is the kind of intensity we need to bring to the court with every match.”