BEACON FALLS — The Woodland volleyball team returns just one starter from its 2009 Naugatuck Valley League championship squad. Luckily for the Hawks, that girl was the league’s top player and an all-area selection: Jessica Patrizi.
Patrizi, a senior, will enter her third year as a varsity starter and is thought of by coaches around the NVL as the best player in the league. She plays all six positions on the floor, digs balls from the back row, passes perfectly from anywhere, and even sneaks in a kill once in a while.
Patrizi will have to do all that and more this year. She has to be the leader of an extremely inexperienced squad trying to defend its second league title in three years.
“I think this year I have more of a leadership role,” Patrizi said. “I know the pace and speed of the game. I need to share that with the new girls. I’m going to bring the experience from everything I’ve learned to the floor this year.”
Head coach Jim Amato, who is entering his fifth year as the helm, knows how important Patrizi will be to the success of his Hawks.
“Her leadership will be important,” Amato said. “She knows the speed of the game and how aggressive play is. Hopefully she can communicate that with the rest of the team. She’s very calm and confident. When she’s playing with that calm confidence, the team rises around her.”
Patrizi’s success hasn’t come overnight. She is one of the few players to work at the sport year-round, having attended various summer camps at Sacred Heart University and Bentley College and playing with the Connecticut Juniors during the winter.
“I learn the game at a faster pace,” Patrizi said. “I learn from college coaches and see more experienced play. Each place teaches a different way how to do everything, but you can modify it to make your own technique.”
Superior experience is only one reason Patrizi is an exceptional player, according to Amato.
“She’s competitive,” he said. “You can’t tell Jess that she can’t, because she’ll prove you wrong every time. She’s always going to work harder to get to the next level and she works on the other girls to get them there, too. She’s never climbing alone. She’s always reaching back to pull the other girls onto the ledge with her.”
Patrizi will have to pull an entire new varsity rotation with her. Amato isn’t even entirely sure who will be in that rotation yet, but it figures to include seniors Heather Framski, Rachael Conti, and Romina Halim.
“It’s like starting over,” Amato said. “It’s a monumental challenge. This isn’t cut and dry like it normally is. It’s going to take determination, dedication, and domination.”
Patrizi said will be doing all she can individually to help the team, including using a jump serve and concentrating more on passing and defense. Still, with the inexperienced unit she’ll be playing with, Patrizi doesn’t think the expectations for the team are any lower than usual.
“The expectations are just as high,” she said. “Just because it’s basically a new team doesn’t mean they’re any lower. Hopefully we can contend for another league title and go further than ever in states. I think we know each other as a team now than we did last year. This is the same team as we were as freshmen, so we’re going to have fun out there.”