First-year Sacred Heart Academy volleyball coach Mia Malafronte was pleased to find out she had some basketball players on her team.
“It’s the perfect fit,” the coach said. “They’re mentally tough and they’re used to getting knocked around.”
Malafronte, who is also an assistant basketball coach at Amity, has Pacer basketball players Lauren Davis, Caitlyn Keish, Kelly Mordecai, Maryanne Bowman and Alisyn Narracci playing volleyball. In addition to their athletic ability, Keish, Mordecai, Bowman and Narracci, all 5 feet 9, have given Sacred Heart Academy an edge at the net.
“Not saying a point guard can’t flip flop both ways,” Malafronte said, “but typically it’s the taller kids.”
But the shorter players bring something unique to the team also. Branford coach Eva Esposito has guards Ellery Riccio and Adrienne DiGioia on her team. The coach says they are the perfect table setters.
“I think the court awareness is a big difference,” Esposito said. “They’re able to see all aspects of the court.”
It’s a road Malafronte, Esposito and countless other former high school basketball players have been down.
“If you’re a basketball player, you should be playing volleyball,” Esposito said.
Esposito said athletes specializing in basketball tend not to play a fall sport. She said she has tried to get some basketball players to come out for volleyball.
“It makes us a better team,” Esposito said. “The basketball athletes are very competitive. Sometimes I find the basketball kids are a little more competitive.”
She said her volleyball players are competitive too, but having the basketball players around pushes everyone a little more. Malafronte said chemistry is also better, since the girls have been around each other in the winter.
“It creates a family-type unit,” she said.
The Pacers had a solid run on the basketball court last year, and Malafronte would know. Amity’s basketball team pulled out 32-31, 43-40 and 44-34 victories over the Pacers last season. Malafronte said she expects big things from the Sacred Heart Academy basketball team this winter.
“They’re silly and they’re happy and just fantastic kids that never get down,” she said.
Esposito said her basketball players have been fun to work with, too. She said both should have strong seasons this winter, and what they did in the fall may have a lot to do with their success.
“The best thing they’ve ever done is come out and play volleyball,” Esposito said.
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