VOLLEYBALL Greenwich Academy aiming high after earning two sweeps
The first two matches of the season ended with 3-0 victories for the Greenwich Academy volleyball team, which seems primed to produce similar results in their remaining matchups.
Wins were tough to come by for the Gators last season, but a year later, the sophomores are an improved group and have increased roles from the 2017 squad, as do the seniors and a pair of freshmen, who saw action as eighth-graders last fall.
Though its roster includes only 10 players, most of Greenwich Academy’s athletes also play club volleyball, so they’re on the court for a good portion of the year. Indeed, it wouldn’t be a surprise if GA is one of the most improved teams in the FAA.
“We are going to have a very strong team,” said Greenwich Academy coach Christy Girard, who is in her 18th season at the helm. “We run a much faster offense and we have a team of almost all club players. Our team started off the season at a higher level and we were able to move faster through the preseason.”
The Gators, who lost their first seven matches of the season in 2017 and posted two victories for the year, are already off to a 2-0 start in 2018. They swept Northfield Mount Hermon, 3-0, in their-season opener, then topped FAA foe School of the Holy Child, 3-0.
Having a small roster numbers wise, doesn’t mean GA lacks depth.
“It’s one of my smallest teams, but all of my players can play so many positions,” Girard said. “We have middle hitters who can play outside and outside hitters who can play middle, so we have so much depth and versatility.”
Greenwich Academy is captained by seniors Grace Ryan, Madlin Decker and Kate Miele, all of whom saw significant action last season. A four-year varsity player, Ryan is an outside and right side hitter, who can also play in the middle and serve as a setter. Decker, also a four-year player, gives the squad strength and experience as a middle hitter and Miele is a right side/outside hitter. Erin Jaquiery, the team’s fourth senior, is a libero.
“Our seniors are great leaders with terrific voices,” Girard said. “They challenge and inspire the younger kids and they all get along very well.”
The team, which does not have one junior, also includes three sophomores and three freshmen, most of whom played on the squad last fall.
Sophomore Valesca Lasky has displayed a lot of improvement as a setter, while sophomore Megan Belcastro is a defensive specialist with an effective serve, who can play multiple positions. Katherine Burns, also a sophomore, is a defensive specialist for the Gators, who visit Hopkins School Saturday at 1 p.m.
Of the three freshman on the team, two — Evie Kay Girard and Alexandra Trofort — played on the GA squad a year ago. Girard, Christy Girard’s daughter, joined the varsity team around the midway point of last season and quickly contributed. A middle hitter with a strong serve, she can also aid the Gators from anywhere on the court.
Trofort, who Girard described as one of the team’s most athletic players, should spark the squad at the middle hitter position. New to the team, which graduated senior captains Casey Gottlieb, Emma James and Grace Zhao, is freshman Whitney Wise.
Besides coaching at Greenwich Academy, Girard is the director of Greenwich Volleyball Club, which has girls teams for players in first grade all the way up to under-17. She directs a boys volleyball club program, which like the girls’ program, begins in November.
“Because a lot of players on our (GA) team are club players their volleyball IQ is so high,” Girard said. “They work hard, they are dedicated to training and from playing on the team together so much, they know each other’s habits.”
Girard, who is assisted by Sean Lahey, has guided GA to seven FAA titles and one NEPSAC Class B championship. The Gators’ last won the FAA title in 2012.
“We have set our goals high,” Girard said. “Going all the way and winning the FAA title and New Englands would be terrific.”