Three Northwest Corner girls volleyball teams had huge seasons last year.
Torrington High School went 17-3 with a Copper Division title under its belt.
Lewis Mills was 19-3 with its first Berkshire League volleyball championship since 1998 locked away in the vault, along with a BL Tournament title.
Wolcott Tech was 15-3, the scourge of the Constitution State Conference.
True to high school cycles, only Wolcott Tech among the three begins the season fully expecting to keep its lofty spot or higher.
The other two are hopeful, but graduated keys to their success.
The Wildcats lost an important player in Kimmie Stack. Otherwise, they’re not only intact, they’re deeper than ever.
Coaches Terri Bambakidou and Ray Tanguay reel off their numbers: seven seniors, four juniors and two quality sophomores all “varsity ready” among the 25 out for the team.
“For the first time, we really have some bench strength,” Tanguay says.
Those who think last year’s win column was swollen by the CSC’s weaker members might be swayed by this year’s pre-season scrimmage results: 3-1 against New Milford; 3-0 against Oxford; 3-0 against Housatonic.
“We’re looking really good,” said tri-captain Nicole Higgins, a senior defender. “We’ve all been playing together for four years. We’re stronger as a team.”
“We have strong hitters, passers and setters,” said tri-captain Haley Farrington, who with twin sister Casey was honorable mention All-State last year.
Casey Farrington, the final senior tri-captain, has been the Wildcat setter since her sophomore year.
“You get to know your hitters,” she grinned.
The Red Raiders lost their long-time setter, Kylie Rosengrant, along with All-NVL libero Shelby Consolini, Jenna Gyuirisko and Rosa Hernandez.
“It’s left us with some big holes in our setting and defense,” said fourth-year coach Christine Gamari.
Like good teams everywhere, the players themselves are undaunted, led by their senior tri-captains.
“We get to take control and help the younger kids out,” said Carly Ruzbasan.
“We’re a young team, but we have our strengths,” said Sam Zordan.
“We have a strong team,” summed up Cassi Perusse.
At Mills, the attitude is much the same, after graduating All-State players Tori Kryzwick and Katie Hurlock, as well as All-BL hitter Teagan Dunn.
“It looks pretty good,” said senior tri-captain Raechel Ashburn. “We have young players, but we’re still good.
“We’re a solid team, but right now we have four key people hurt. Once they return, we should peak around the middle to the end of the season, right on schedule,” said third-year coach Chuck Drda.
Meanwhile, he lists the teams hoping to take the Spartans’ place at the championship table.
“The last three years, it’s been us and Terryville,” he said. “Terryville is always good. Northwestern is always good.”
Drda throws Nonnewaug into the possible mix.
Housatonic and Gilbert would also like to be there.
Terryville upended Housy in the Class S first round last year.
Gilbert, a power for years in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, keeps looking for a way back to the top.
Area players to watch
C.C. Carbone, Soph, Torrington
Sam Zordan, Sr, Torrington
Carly Ruzbasan, Sr, Torrington
Casey Farrington, Sr, Wolcott Tech
Haley Farrington, Sr, Wolcott Tech
Cassie Dablain, Sr, Wolcott Tech
Lydia Carlson, Sr, Wolcott Tech
Raechel Ashburn, Sr, Lewis Mills
Rachel Seleman, Sr, Lewis Mills
Mika Martin, Sr, Lewis Mills
Ali Brochu, Soph, Gilbert