by Tyler Roaix
After a season of ups and downs back in 2016, the Central Connecticut State University’s Women’s Volleyball team suffered a disappointing loss in the semifinals of the Northeastern Conference tournament.
The biggest challenge every program faces while going into a new season, is the mix of new and returning students. CCSU is no different; of the 16-player roster, seven of them are freshman.
But head women volleyball coach Linda Sagnelli shared how her squad put those concerns to bed early on.
“We do have a very large incoming class, but so far it has been very smooth,” Sagnelli said. “Our new girls have gelled with the veterans so well. And those retuning players have set the bar in practice, and the freshmen have eased in so well.”
The NEC also implemented scrimmage matches this year to help teams in the conference transition into the new season. Central used this new opportunity to play a scrimmage match again Quinnipiac on Aug. 22.
Due to the new season, Central has lost five seniors . Much of their success in 2016 came from now-graduated players, like Brooke Schwab and Cassidy Stankowski.
Even still, when asked if there were any players she was looking at who could take charge, her answer was simple; everyone.
“We have so much depth. Raquel [Quirarte] is a sparkplug, and she’s only getting stronger,” Sagnelli said about her players. “Lindsey [Massicotte] is a rock. Maddie [Smith] is so focused. Morgan [Woycik] is over 10 feet on her vertical… It really can come from anywhere this year.”
Sagnelli enters her 18th season at Central, and so far she has had a lot of success on the court. But what may be her greatest achievement, may be off the court.
In July, the American Volleyball Coaches Association recognized CCSU’s volleyball team for academic excellence. It is the 11th consecutive year Central has been awarded the honor.
“We not only want to see them become great players, but also great people,” Sagnelli shared of the feat. “We don’t try to pressure them into being something they aren’t. All we ask of our players is to do their best, regardless of whether it’s on the court or in the classroom. As long as they try their best, that all we can ask for.”
The biggest hurdle the team must get over if they are to return to the playoffs, is their success outside of Kaiser Gym.
At home last season, Central was nearly unbeatable, going 8-2 in 10 contests. But in 17 matches either on the road or at neutral sites, they won just six. They were lucky to skate into the playoffs with a fourth seed in 2016.
But look for Sagnelli and her coaching staff to push the team early in the year, so that they aren’t fighting for a spot the last weekend of the regular season.
Overall, Sagnelli is looking forward to this season with a team that could easily go all the way. “I have to say, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch these girls play. I’m so excited to get started.”
The Blue Devils have jumped out to a strong 4-2 record to start the season. Sophomore Madelyn Kaprelyan has been a force for Central, posting a team-leading 57 kills and a .287 hit percentage so far.
The Blue Devils are back at it this weekend when they participate in the Hartford Invitational. Their first home match is not until Sept. 22, when they begin conference play against LIU Brooklyn.