Volleyball preview: Warriors look to continue progress

While the Wilton High volleyball team didn’t reach its goal of making the state playoffs a year ago, the Warriors begin the 2016 season today ready for another crack at eight wins.

Wilton returns six players from last year’s 4-16 team, but must replace a big senior class of seven players. The graduates include the team’s top two players in Shannon Golden and Julia Schiavone, along with other key contributors in Natalie Bennett, Jessica Huffman and Carly Lovallo.

Now, this year’s senior class is ready to lead Wilton to more success.

"We defintely want to make it to the state tournament. We haven’t been there for a couple of years and we’d really like to show our stuff this year," said Ava Martinelli, the team's senior captain.

“I’m pleased with the nucleus we have. I think it’s a great group in terms of skill, size and leadership,” said head coach Steve Brienza, whose team opens at home today (4:15) against New Milford.

“I feel that they’re playing well and the chemistry is starting to develop a little more. It could be better. It’s something we got to work on the next several days.”

Martinelli, a defensive specialist,  is joined by five other returning seniors in Rachel Low (setter), Hayley Meyer (opposite), Isabella Jones (defensive specialist), Kat Aznaran (middle blocker) and Sarah Souza (outside hitter, middle blocker).

The Warriors add five new juniors in Summer Rogg (OH), Sophie Phelan (defensive specialist), Addie Tanzman (middle blocker)and Emma Vail (setter), and one sophomore, Juliana Musilli (outside hitter).

Almost all of the players have been in the program since their freshman year, and most have played in the off-season, either with clubs or by attending clinics.

"The girls worked really hard this year during the off-season. We did a lot in the weight room. We had a preseason camp and the girls worked really hard and shook off all their nerves for tryouts," said Martinelli. "We have a lot of talent coming up, a lot of great young girls, and I htink it’s going to be a really great season."

The younger players are strong hitters, said Brienza, and have shown their potential.

“They’re developing into their roles. It’s coming along very nicely,” he said. “We’re improving in each area of the game. I think we have a greater attacking presence than we did previously. Our service receive is a little bit stronger.”

A positive sign for the program is the increased numbers. This year, 52 girls tried out, with a final total of 34 players on the freshman, JV and varsity teams.

“The numbers are moving up. When I started I had 38 kids all together trying out. We’re steadily increasing year after year,” Brienza said. “The primary goal is to improve year to year and try to put a few wins up each year.”