NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck volleyball team came into the season looking to rebuild after losing the entire starting lineup to graduation. Entering the final stretch of the regular season, the Greyhounds appear to be well ahead of schedule.
With Seymour and Kennedy sitting at one and two respectively in the NVL, the Greyhounds (9-3 NVL, 11-3 overall) find themselves in a logjam of contenders vying to overtake the Wildcats and Eagles.
Following their first two losses of the season in late September, the Greyhounds rattled off three straights wins, including a sweep of Watertown on Oct. 5, before falling to Kennedy, 3-1, on Oct. 9.
“The team has responded well after a couple of tough losses,” head coach Kevin Wesche said. “They came back to practice working hard to get better and worked on a few things they needed to. They certainly have the will to win.”
Naugatuck rebounded from the loss to Kennedy by sweeping Wilby on Oct. 11 and beating Oxford, 3-1, on Oct. 12.
Senior captains Hailey Deitelbaum and Shannon Burns team up with junior captain Brielle Behuniak to form the Greyhounds’ leadership.
“We have done a real good job coming together as a solid unit,” said Behuniak, who had five points, two aces and eight kills in the win over Wilby. “We have developed a trust in one another out on the court.”
The three captains provide a solid core for the team to build around. Deitelbaum has a knack to be where the action is, whether it’s getting her hands on a dig save, setting up the front row for a kill or taking it to the net herself. Burns is versatile in her abilities to set up a return or charge the net, and Behuniak has settled into her role as the first option up front to drive kills through the opponent’s defense.
Junior Jordyn Hunt has been a spark on offense. Her serving percentage is one of the best in the league, leading to long service runs that take over a game.
Junior Hailey Russell has come on to be another force at the net, and freshman Kaylee Jackson has developed over the season and worked her way into the starting unit.
“I think playing together as a unit helps us to know the flow of the game and helps us to make those adjustments during the course of a match,” said Deitelbaum, who had 12 points and four kills against Wilby. “It’s nice to get a break once in a while but coming back in off the bench we may lose some of that focus.”
The Greyhounds started the season hot with six straight wins, but dropping a few matches may not have been the worst thing to happen to the team.
“I think we felt a little bit of pressure the way we started out,” said Burns, who had five kills against Wilby. “Now that we had a few setbacks we can just come out and focus on what we need to do to keep this going. Our communication definitely got better.”
If Naugatuck is vulnerable it may be the lack of experienced depth off the bench. Junior libero Yahna Ancheta has played a key role in the back row with sophomores Cara Bergin and Alyssa Roberts seeing time as well in the front row.
After sitting out the required amount of games, transfer student senior Sarah Wiesnewski could prove to be the depth that Naugy needs to make a run at the top teams in the league.
“The starters are out there a lot of the time, so we try and work in our libero and use our timeouts to give them a rest,” Wesche said. “This team is progressing where I thought they would be but I was surprised they came together so quickly to start the season.”
Naugatuck will play St. Paul on Tuesday. Naugatuck ends this week with Woodland on Thursday and Wolcott on Friday.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the version that is published in the Oct. 18 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information on games played after press time.