BEACON FALLS — After reaching a fourth state semifinal in seven years last season, the Woodland volleyball team will regroup with an almost entirely new lineup this fall.
“It’s going to be a rebuilding year,” longtime coach Jim Amato said. “We graduated a lot of seniors, but these girls were on the B-side of the net last season to make it as successful as it was. Now they’re on the (A-) side. They get to see what they get to bring to the game.”
Steph Krebbs, Lexie Chabot, Fatima Khalid, Alyssa Lukeski, Xiu Xiu Sammis-McCoy, Layne Cronin, Liz Triana and Sydnie Overby were among the key contributors to last year’s group that went 18-7 and reached the Class M semifinals for the first time since 2015. Now that they’ve graduated, a new crop will look up to pick up the Hawks’ rich tradition.
Juniors May Dawes and Elayna Beutel were two of the few underclassmen to see significant varsity time last fall, and they will return to lock down the back and front rows, respectively.
Senior Mary Pelkey and sophomore Kylie Bulinski will share setting duties as part of the Hawks’ new offensive system, while junior Sydney Harrison could emerge as an important attacker.
“Sydney Harrison is going to be that unknown who will step up and change things,” Amato said.
Pelkey is one of five senior captains for the Hawks. She’s joined by Katie Sirowich, Isabella Fabrizi, Sylvia Lemanski and manager Jessica Vardon.
With so many new players on the varsity court, Amato’s goals are mostly focused on development over the first few weeks of the season rather than any lofty postseason expectations just yet.
“Cohesion,” Amato named as the primary early-season goal. “They’re playing side by side with different girls, so we have to see how that comes together. They’re being moved into different positions, so we have to see how well they can pick up those new skills. It’ll be about how well we can put our new system in place.”
Woodland will open the season Friday at Oxford, followed by a Sept. 17 match at Sacred Heart, a first-year varsity program. The Hawks’ home opener will be Sept. 19 versus Ansonia, with key early-season tests against defending Naugatuck Valley League champion Kennedy on Sept. 20 and defending Class M champion Seymour on Oct. 1.