Team sure
likes being
number 1
At halftime of the Woodstock Academy football game Oct. 5, members of the volleyball team stopped by following their 13th consecutive win, a 3-0 victory over Norwich Free Academy.
They gathered around coach Adam Bottone who turned and asked them a simple question with a predictable answer.
“’You like being No. 1?’” Bottone asked the assembled including seniors Sammie Orlowski and Emma Green and sophomore Amelia Large.
In unison, they replied with an emphatic “Yeah.”
Oct. 3, the Centaurs learned voters in the Connecticut Volleyball coach’s Poll had chosen the Centaurs as the top team in the state, ahead of traditional powers like RHAM and East Lyme.
“We talked about it (Thursday) in practice and they all said, they haven’t thought about it, they don’t want to think about it. They just want to play their game and goof around. I said, ‘Hey, it’s worked so far,’” Bottone said.
Bottone’s job may have got a little tougher.
If the Centaurs had only a small target on their back - which is doubtful considering they are undefeated and were Class L state runners up a year ago - coming into the week, it has since grown exponentially with the release of the poll.
“I wasn’t surprised. I thought it would come eventually. I, personally, never vote us No. 1. I put Southington at No. 1,” Bottone said.
Southington had more first-place votes than the Centaurs but lost out by two total points as Woodstock Academy ascended to the top spot for the first time in program history.
Bottone attributed that to Southington losing to East Lyme in a tournament in New York, something the Centaurs coach took little stock in.
“I often times look at my coaches and ask, ‘How are we the No. 1 ranked team?’ It’s not that we don’t have the skill, they just goof off. We’re dancing around and our warm-ups are always horrible, but come game time, they put their game faces on,” Bottone said.
Green looks at it this way.
“When we stay loose, we play better,” the senior said.
The Centaurs apparently were pretty loose on Friday.
They downed the Wildcats, 25-13, 25-20 and 25-13.
“Another good win,” Bottone said. “The first time we played them, the results were pretty similar. They have had some pretty good games against East Lyme, Fitch and Lyman so they have been playing better. One of our mottos is that ‘No one beats us in our house’ and we took it to them (Friday).”
Natalie Low led the Centaurs with 19 kills while Paula Hernandez added 13 and 16 digs
Orlowski contributed 28 assists while Maddy Gronski had 19 digs.
“They put up a really solid fight. Every team we play right now is putting up a good game, but our attitude, our game, our defense, was all there (Friday),” Orlowski said.
The win was important for another reason.
Bottone has been coaching the Centaurs for 17 seasons and, in that time; the Centaurs have never won an Eastern Connecticut Conference divisional title by themselves.
Despite a 23-4 record last season, Woodstock Academy shared the Division II regular season crown with Killingly.
The Centaurs have been bumped up to Division I this season and currently lead with a 4-0 record with matches against Fitch this Wednesday and East Lyme Oct. 11. Although they have to win both to take the championship without sharing, the match with the Vikings looms large. East Lyme finished last week with an 11-1 record, winner of 11 in a row.
The only loss for the Vikings; a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Woodstock Academy in Woodstock in the season opener for both.

The Centaurs posted an easy win over the state line Oct. 3, winning the first two sets against Southbridge 25-5 and 25-9, and then finished it off with a 25-18 third set win.
Gronski led the Centaurs with 21 digs while Orlowski had 15 assists.
Hernandez (8) and Low contributed a combined 15 kills from the outside.
“It was another one of those matches where I was able to get a lot of players in, get the girls some experience, and give the girls who play a lot a little rest; a well-deserved rest,” Bottone said.
The first match of the week started off a bit on the rocky side.
The first two serves from the Woodstock Academy girls’ volleyball team found their way into the net.
“Our service errors were up this match. We definitely will get to work on that in practice. The little extra focus of thought on play at the beginning would help us, but were able to pick it up and get back,” Orlowski said.
Seriously, it was one of the few points that the Centaurs could be picked on for in their 3-0 victory over Montville Oct. 1 at the Alumni Fieldhouse.
The two misfires were mere blips on the radar screen that soon disappeared.
The Centaurs rallied from the early 4-1 deficit in the first set for a 25-15 win.
They made no such mistakes in the second set and rolled past the Indians, 25-7.
“It was pretty nice,” Bottone said with a chuckle of the one-side second set victory. “In the intermission (between the first and second sets), we talked about what we were not doing defensively; getting caught up, not getting back to our base right away and not reading things well. We were getting beat deep on balls they were pushing. We needed to change that pretty quickly and they weren’t very successful against us with that in the second set.”
The Indians also had no answer for Hernandez.
The junior dominated the first two games, getting eight kills in the first and seven in the second before being used more sparingly in the third when Bottone tried some different combinations.
It didn’t hurt much as the Centaurs outscored the Indians in the final set, 25-16.
Low chipped in 12 kills for the Centaurs while Orlowski (19) and Green combined for 27 assists.
Gronski added 13 digs.
In addition to the 13 straight wins to start the season, the Centaurs have also won 33 of their last 34 matches.
“I try not to think about it because there is a lot of pressure on us,” Orlowski said. “There is a lot of pressure to keep it and we have to be ready to lose. It could happen. I don’t want it to happen, but as long as we stay consistent, keep working hard in the gym; we may be able to remain undefeated. I don’t think it’s our main focus. Our main focus is to get better as a team.”
Green just doesn’t want the season to end any time soon.
The team is clearly enjoying the notoriety and the success and for the seniors, it’s one last season to shine on the volleyball court.
“It feels really good,” Green said. “I’ve been on the team for the last four years and these girls are like family. It’s kind of sad, a little bittersweet.”
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director
The Woodstock Academy


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