Greenwich Academy volleyball coach Christy Girard predicted her team would have a strong season prior to its 2018 campaign and the Gators proceeded to advance to the FAA Tournament semifinals, following a rebuilding 2017 season.
This fall, Girard, whose team displayed the most improvement among any squad in the FAA in 2018, believes even better things are ahead for GA.
“Our goal this year is to win the FAA Tournament and hopefully, qualify for the New England Tournament and go as far as we can,” Girard said. “We have strong, aggressive players with a high volleyball IQ. They have been playing together for a long time.”
A highly impressive regular season earned Greenwich Academy the No. 1 seed in the FAA Tournament. Following a victory in their quarterfinal-round game, the Gators were defeated by fourth-seeded rival King School, 3-1, in the FAA semifinals. During the 2018 regular season, Greenwich Academy swept King, 3-0, handing the Vikings their first loss against an FAA opponent since they lost to GA in the 2013 conference tournament.
Last season’s GA squad had four seniors, but the current team’s roster of 10, has just one. However, despite having a lot of youth, the 2019 Gators are a match-tested group.
“We have six returning players and with that comes a lot of experience,” Girard said. “We don’t have any returning seniors, but the other players are really dedicated with their training. They might be on the younger side, but they are experienced.”
Captaining Greenwich Academy are juniors Valeska Lasky, Megan Belcastro and Catherine Burns. Lasky helps the offense click from her setter position.
“I always get the second ball and I’m like the quarterback of the team,” Lasky said. “I like to get feedback from the hitters and they give me feedback.”
Belcastro lines up at outside hitter, a position she helped the team at last season. She is also a defensive specialist.
“We all get along so well, so this is a fun team to be on,” Belcastro said. “One of the strong points of our team is our communication, which is really good.”
Burns, an opposite hitter, has liked what she’s seen from the squad during the preseason.
“I am really excited about the season,” Burns said. “We have all come together really well and I feel like this is a really cohesive team. We are bonding and working together really well.”
Greenwich Academy, which scrimmaged Sacred Heart Greenwich, Greenwich High School and New Canaan, opens its new season Saturday against Northfield Mount Hermon in a match that is going to be held at Choate Rosemary Hall.
AT THE HELM: Girard is beginning her 19th season as Greenwich Academy’s coach. She has led the Gators to seven FAA championships and one NEPSAC Class B title. Greenwich Academy posted a record of 12-5 a year ago, including an appearance in the FAA Tournament semifinals. Returning as an assistant coach is Sean Leahy.
WHO’S GONE?: Grace Ryan, Madlin Decker, Kate Miele and Erin Jaquiery, all of whom were key contributors to last season’s success, graduated. Ryan, Decker and Miele each served as captains of the 2018 squad.
WHO’S BACK?: Lasky returns as a setter, Belcastro is back at outside hitter and Burns is one of the hitters who should spark the squad. Sophomore Evie Kay Girard, Christy Girard’s daughter, was one of GA’s leaders in kills last season and should build upon her standout freshman season. Girard is an outside hitter.
“Evie Kay can spike the ball from anywhere and it goes down,” Belcastro said.
Sophomores Alexandra Trofort and Whitney Wise should once again, make an impact as middle hitters.
NEWCOMERS: Sophomore Miranda Calver, senior Lexi Handrinos, freshman Sofi Marti and freshman Alicia Qin each join the squad and should provide depth.
STRENGTHS: “Our passing has been good, so that’s been helping me out a lot with setting,” Lasky said. “We’re really excited about our new players.”
Said Burns: “Most of us have been on the team for a while and we are learning how to play well together with the new players.”
CAPTAIN’S COMMENT: “We hope to make it to the FAA finals this year and we want to try to make New Englands,” Belcastro said.