By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — No one really knew what to expect when the fall high school sports season began in early October with restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After winning the Naugatuck Valley League championship last year and losing four seniors who played huge roles in that success, one couldn’t expect the Naugatuck volleyball team to be perfect. But, with one regular season match left before the divisional tournament, the Greyhounds sport a perfect 11-0 record.
“The kids are coming to practice and working hard and that kind of effort is showing up out on the court,” head coach Kevin Wesche said. “They are selling out when they are out there and have been solid on defense.”
Due to the divisional format this season, the Greyhounds haven’t faced some of the other top teams in the NVL, including two-time reigning state champion Seymour. Nonetheless, they’ve handled their business, only dropping four sets in 11 games.
The Greyhounds didn’t lose any sets Nov. 5 in a 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-8) win over Holy Cross as they continued their winning ways.
“We were a little unsure at the start of the season of how this team would respond,” Wesche said. “I told them going out there that they would have a bullseye on their back being the NVL champs, much like Seymour does, and they would have to step up their game because teams would be coming after us.”
Wesche credited the leadership of the team’s seniors — Lindsey Walsh, Alyssa Roberts and Cara Bergin — for bringing the squad together.
“Our seniors bring a lot of experience to the program,” Wesche said. “They have been using that leadership to help the other girls blend in with the unit.”
Naugatuck also boasts a deep junior class including Kaylee Jackson, Kendall Allen, Sam Mullin, Nadia Cestari, Felicia Salvati, Juliana Sarbieski, Cadence Hoffman, Mia Grella and Tiffany Nguyen.
“We have been using a core of 12 players and they all practice together against one another, and I think that has helped them develop into a solid unit that is firing on all cylinders,” Wesche said.
Mullin led the Greyhounds with 14 points and five aces against Holy Cross. Allen scored 13 points and had seven kills, and Walsh steered the offense with 11 assists. Cestari had eight points and six assists, Jackson had nine kills, and Bergin and Salvati added three kills each.
Naugatuck ends the regular season Nov. 6 against Watertown. The Iron Division tournament is set to start Nov. 7 with semifinals scheduled for Nov. 10-11. The championship game is slated for Nov. 14.
Heading into the tournament, Wesche said the Greyhounds will need to stay sharp.
“Our biggest challenge going into a tournament like this is keeping our mental focus,” he said.