Greenwich Volleyball Seeks to Build From Last Year’s Success
By Paul Silverfarb
While there might be a few more outside distractions that the Greenwich High School girls’ volleyball team has to navigate through this season, head coach Steve Lapham still has his usual high expectations for the Lady Cards.
“I hope to compete for the FCIAC title,” Lapham said. “It’s a whole new group of players, but there’s some key experience on the roster. Nicole [Wood] is coming back. Tara [Ford] and Erika [Hauschild] saw a lot of time. Maggy [Egan] has been a four-year varsity player. We certainly don’t lack varsity experience. We lost some really great talent last year, but I think we’ll be in good shape this year.”
Due to a delay in putting down the new gym floor at Greenwich High School, Big Red will be calling Eastern Middle School its home this season. Despite the inconvenience, Lapham, as well as the rest of the Cardinals, believe they could make an appearance in both the FCIAC and class LL tournaments and make a run to the finals for both.
“I think we have a lot of potential,” GHS senior captain Tara Ford said. “We want to make it to FCIACs and to feel more comfortable around each other. We need to have good team chemistry and just trust in ourselves. We have already bonded outside the court and I feel like the trust can coincide with what we do on the field. That’s going to matter a lot when we are down to our last set and last match.”
That was the plan last year for the Lady Cardinals and they almost reached their goals. Big Red went on a big run during the regular season and finished with the top seed in both the conference and state tournaments.
GHS compiled a regular season record of 17-1. As a top seed in the FCIAC, Big Red blasted Darien in the opening round, but fell to McMahon in the FCIAC semis. During the state tournament, the top-seeded Cards blanked Fairfield Warde after an opening round bye and then took care of Glastonbury, 3-0, in the quarters. However, in the class LL semis, Greenwich fell to Ridgefield in a five-set thriller (25-15, 25-22, 24-26, 17-25, 9-15).
Although Greenwich didn’t come home with a state or conference title, it was the first time in team history that they grabbed the top seed in both tourneys and was something that Lapham said he honestly didn’t expect from the team last season.
“They really exceeded their goals,” Lapham said. “We had three really good players and had a host of people that really stepped it up as the season went along. This year we have the same goals.”
Leading the way for Big Red will be senior captains Tara Ford, Maggy Egan and Nicole Wood.
“It feels amazing to be a leader here and I worked really hard to get to where I am,” Ford said. “I started playing my sophomore year and didn’t really know how to play the game. Now I am playing club and in school and it’s great. Being out there on the court makes me feel really good.”
For Wood, taking on the role of captain is something not the norm for the GHS senior. However, she said she’s excited to take on the extra responsibility and help the team grow.
“Everybody is watching me on the court, so I have to make sure that I have a positive attitude,” Wood said. “The underclassmen always look up to the captains, especially on the court. When we are down, they look towards us and that’s why we need to have that positive attitude. As captains, we all have to agree on the same thing, make sure there’s a good dynamic and make sure there is no inner conflict.”
Egan has been on the varsity squad for four seasons and is the most experienced member of the Lady Cardinals.
“I really appreciate that I get to take on a leadership role with the team and help the younger girls out,” Egan said. “We need to work really hard to earn their spot on the court. This year we have fairly a new team, but we are really close and the team dynamic is very good. That chemistry off the court will only help us on the court this year.”
Lapham said that the captains bring a wealth of love and respect for the team.
“They respect everyone and lead by example,” the head coach said. “They do the work and everybody can see that. There’s nobody here that’s entitled. They put the time in the offseason, as all three of them play year-round. They step on the court for us and they’re just coming off another season and ready to go. It’s great because they are in volleyball shape. They’re jumping, running and moving.”
In addition to the captains, Big Red has a solid senior core this season. Adnerys De Jesus, Erika Hauschild and Mia Giselle Binuya will be key contributors to the team’s success.
It’s been a while, but the girls’ volleyball team will have a freshman that sees quality time on the court, as Lillian Saleeby makes the jump to the varsity roster.
Wood is considered the team’s floor president and will run the show at center. Ford is incredibly strong at middle and should get her fair share of kills, while both Hauschild and De Jesus will be outside and see most of the balls.
Junior Amelia Bartlett will also play in the middle, Egan will be used for her serve, especially on the right, as defending the right is not a strong suit for a lot of teams.
“We’re going to be picking up the tempo of the game and moving the ball around,” Lapham said. “Hopefully we are going to freeze our opponents blocks and not be so predictable. Tara is a very good middle and Nicole is an excellent setter. They played club together, so they are right on time. We need to get everybody else on time with them. Maggy played with them as well, so she’s right there. Our biggest goal this year is to receive the serve. If we can do that and give Nicole a good ball all the time, then I think our hitters will do well for us.”
One of the challenges Big Red has to face this season is something beyond their control, as the gymnasium at Greenwich High School will not be finished in time for the fall season teams to utilize it.
“They were sad and there were tears in their eyes when they found out there was no gym floor,” Lapham said. “You’re a senior and you work hard to get here and then this happens, it kind of stinks for them. It’s not fun traveling around. It’s getting to places and not having your team room and stepping out on the court. It hurts and stinks, but once we’re out there playing, it’s still a ball on a court and we are hitting. When the season gets going, I’m sure we’ll forget about it. We have three games to play a week, so it’s all about rest, recover, practice, scout and then on to our next match.”
While having to use a middle school gymnasium isn’t ideal, Ford said that she uses the busing time from GHS to Eastern well.
“The bus rides over here are great for team bonding,” Ford said. “We get to talk about our day and how things are going. We help each other with school. Although we don’t have the best conditions, we do still put 100 percent on the court and when we practice.”
And putting 100 percent into everything is exactly what Big Red needs to do in order to be successful in a highly competitive FCIAC.
Just like the past few years, the competition that Greenwich High School will face this season will be challenging. Lapham says that the tough competition during the regular season only helps his squad when it comes to obtaining its goal of a quality postseason run.
“Right off the bat, if you don’t mention Darien, you’re kidding yourself,” Lapham said. “We were lucky enough to get by them twice last year, but they are coming back stronger than ever. Ludlowe and Staples are going to be right up there. Stamford won both the FCIAC and state titles last year and have arguably the best blocker in the state. St. Joe’s is solid and McMahon has been rocking it the past couple of years. There’s no easy teams and we like that because when we get out of the FCIAC season, we are weather-tested and ready to go.”
Helping the team get stronger, will be new junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant coach Shawn Hoyt, the former head coach at Woodstock Academy.
“We are really excited to have him,” Lapham said. “He brings energy and is a technician. He sees the details and is all about footwork. He’s helped me out a lot already and I’m psyched to have him help this program.”