Fierce is one of the key words the Sacred Heart Greenwich volleyball team will emphasize this fall.
“We have a theme of being fierce,” Tigers senior co-captain Kellie Ulmer said. “That’s our word. We are trying to be more aggressive. It’s important to be more aggressive and hit more often.”
The Tigers displayed such aggression in their season-opener against visiting Newton Country Day School on Saturday.
Though it was only its first match of the season, Sacred Heart showed plenty of positive signs in its 3-0 victory against Newton Country Day.
“We played really well and it gives us a hint on what we are capable of for the season,” Ulmer said.
Added Tigers coach Beth Wilson-Jordan: “Overall, we are pretty happy. Our players had the confidence to run a few things and we got the kinks out. We got better as the match went on.”
Last season was one of rebuilding for the Tigers, who were eliminated by Greens Farms Academy in the quarterfinal-round of the FAA Tournament, after advancing to the tourney’s championship match the previous three seasons. The younger players from last season’s squad a year more experienced and have sharpened their skills.
“I feel like we’ve definitely improved from last year,” said senior co-captain Salome Alfaro, a defensive specialist and setter. “Everyone is going to continue to improve and I feel that we’re going to have a lot of wins this season.”
Saturday, Sacred Heart defeated Newtown by game scores of 25-16, 25-11, 25-14. Ulmer recorded five aces, four kills and seven digs, while junior Morgan Wilkens posted nine aces, 20 assists and four digs for the victors. Junior Olivia Lockwood had 10 kills and eight digs, while junior Fran Iraola registered five kills. Eva Canellakis, a junior libero, notched 11 digs in the win.
Following a scrimmage at home against FAA rival Greenwich Academy on Tuesday, Sacred Heart travels to Loomis Chaffee School on Saturday. The Tigers’ FAA-opener is on Sept. 17 against visiting Hamden Hall Country Day School.
AT THE HELM: Wilson-Jordan has been with the program for nine seasons and is beginning her seventh as head coach. Amy Greer is back as a varsity assistant coach.
WHO’S GONE?: Natalia Pazos, a setter/outside hitter and libero CMeijah Donaldson were the graduates from last year’s team.
WHO’S BACK?: Ulmer lines up at the outside hitter position. Lockwood has moved from the middle to the outside. Sophomore Lucy Catalano returns at the middle hitter spot, after turning in a solid freshman campaign. Junior Anabelle Hartch will be looked upon to spark the Tigers on the right side and senior Stephanie Guza is a returning defensive specialist.
Wilkens should help lead keep the offense running as a setter and Alfaro will see action at setter and as a defensive specialist. Canellakis is the squad’s libero. Joining the team are eighth grader Emilia Bernal (outside hitter/defensive specialist) and Iraola (middle hitter).
“As far as wins and losses, I think we’ll be stronger this year,” Wilson-Jordan said. “The girls were always competitive last year, with the exception of a couple of matches. This year, we are going to be more competitive. Last year was a learning experience for a lot of our players.”
STRENGTHS: “We’ve definitely learned how to communicate with each other and how to help each other on and off the court,” Alfaro said. “We know were we belong on the court, where our territory is.”
Versatility is also a plus for the Tigers.
“This year, more people are playing more than one position and are trying new things,” Ulmer said. “By doing that, we are able to be more flexible with our plays and try new things out there on the court.”