Girls volleyball begins season, and they do it without masks

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BY KYLE BRENNAN AND KEN MORSE
CITIZEN’S NEWS
The last time Woodland’s Samantha Sosnovich, Maille Ianniruberto, Kalle Legassey and the rest of their senior teammates played high school volleyball without face masks, they were freshmen, rookies to the sport.
When the Hawks opened their season Sept. 8 against Brookfield, they finally got to play a match while seeing each other’s entire face.
Everyone got used to wearing masks during the 2020 and 2021 seasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic — after all, they’d do anything just to play — but that doesn’t mean the quality of play was optimal.
“A huge part of volleyball is communication,” Sosnovich said. “With a mask on, that aspect of the game is already affected. Not being able to hear your teammates clearly because of the mask was definitely a challenge.”
Naugatuck coach Kevin Wesche noticed the same constraints on his Greyhounds over the past two seasons, which forced players to adapt in a sub-optimal way.
“The masks muffled a lot in the past couple of seasons,” Wesche said. “Last year, you relied solely on body language and the eyes.”
The ‘Hounds opened their season Sept. 12 against Pomperaug. One thing Wesche looked forward to was being able to send clearer messages from the bench, since he, too, was forced to mask up over the past two campaigns.
“I think the lack of masks has to help in the on-court communication amongst the players, as well as instruction and support from the sidelines,” Wesche said. “Now there will be no excuse for players hearing each other or the staff.”
Woodland challenged itself with a preseason schedule that included matches against Jonathan Law, Northwestern and Shelton, as well as an eight-team jamboree at East Haven. Sosnovich said practicing verbal communication was a point of emphasis leading up to the regular season.
“This year we are really focusing on communicating with everyone on the floor,” Sosnovich said. “[It makes] playing so much easier and way smoother.”