Chemistry, depth fuel confidence

Naugatuck’s Cailee Bergin hits the ball against Watertown Sept. 22 at Naugatuck High School. Naugatuck won, 3-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck volleyball team has followed a constant trend over recent years of starting the season off on a positive note. The Greyhounds’ record in their first ten games over the previous four seasons is 29-11 combined, including a 9-1 start in 2013 and 7-3 starts in 2014 and 2016.

“Winning for us begins in the preparation these ladies do in the offseason, getting involved in leagues, clubs and conditioning on their own,” Naugatuck Head coach Kevin Wesche said.  “They come prepared mentally and somewhat physically to begin the season and hit the court running.

“Getting a win or two early on gives that proverbial rubber stamp to the hard work and dedication they demonstrate throughout the season. The cohesive bond and trust they have in each other’s abilities as well as buying in to the coach’s philosophy goes a long way to kick-starting the school year.”

This season has started off a bit differently for Wesche’s squad, as Naugatuck sits at 4-4 after falling to defending Class M state champion Seymour, 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-8), on Tuesday.

Cailee Bergin had three kills, five assists and two aces versus Seymour. Aryana Powell had two kills and digs each, and Jayla Piazza added two aces and three digs.

Heading into the Seymour game, Naugatuck won back-to-back matches last week against Holy Cross, 3-2, and Watertown, 3-0.

In the win against Holy Cross, Powell recorded 20 service points, five aces and three kills. Bergin had six service points, 14 kills and seven assists, while Brielle Behuniak chipped in with 10 service points, five aces and 17 assists.

In the win versus Watertown, Behuniak had 21 points, seven aces, and 24 assists. Bergin had 11 kills and nine assists, while Briana Tavares and Hailey Deitelbaum recorded 11 kills combined.

Winning certainly isn’t easy in the Naugatuck Valley League. On top of Seymour, Torrington is the defending NVL champ and is undefeated to begin the year. Then there’s teams like Wolcott and Woodland to contend with.

Wesche appreciates what a tough schedule can do for his players, though.

“Playing in the Iron Division along with scheduling tough outside opponents like Danbury, Lewis Mills and Seymour for a second game, plus a strong preseason scrimmage schedule that includes St. Joseph, Hale Ray, Wilton, New Milford, Fairfield Warde, and King, gets our players in game speed in a hurry,” Wesche said.

With the second half of the season approaching, Wesche has several reasons to be confident in his team, including team chemistry and depth.

“So far these young ladies have been jelling as student-athletes and becoming a cohesive team that is bonding on and off the court,” Wesche said.

Naugatuck’s Brielle Behuniak goes for the kill against Watertown Sept. 22 at Naugatuck High School. Naugatuck won, 3-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Off the court, the Greyhounds have spent time together at bonfires, cookouts and picnics to celebrate being a team, he said.

On the court, Wesche has essentially used every player at his disposal.

“Some of the keys come in the words of wisdom from our leadership, tri-captains Cailee Bergin Taylor Hunt and Jayla Piazza,” Wesche said. “They always have positive words of wisdom and encouragement for the younger players. They continue to lead on the court by example and unselfish play with our other seniors, Aryana Powell, Julia Pelliccia and Briana Tavares.”

“Junior Hailey Deitelbaum provides an additional threat at the net along with sophomore Brielle Behuniak, giving a young spark with a calm demeanor,” he added. “In addition, junior Shannon Burns and sophomores Jordyn Hunt and Hailey Russell continue to gain varsity experience and confidence, serving and playing in the back row.”

Naugatuck will play Lewis Mills on Wednesday and host St. Paul on Friday.

Wesche knows there are some things the team needs to work on and plenty the team has done well.

“We need to get more consistent at the net as the season progresses,” Wesche said. “So far we are playing tough on the defensive end, bringing up balls, backing each other up and extending volleys to give ourselves opportunities to win a point. I believe as the season progresses will become more competitive and compete with the traditional powerhouses in the NVL.”