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Getting Ready
The Woodstock Academy volleyball players work out in the gym getting ready for a season that begins on Oct. 1. Photo by Marc Allard.

Volleyball preview
No pressure
on Centaurs
The Woodstock Academy girls’ volleyball team has had plenty of excitement over the last three seasons.
The Centaurs have been a part of the Class L final four in each of the last three seasons, finishing as runners-up in 2017 and ’18 and falling in the state semifinals last season.
It has left those still with the program with some fond memories. “I was lucky enough to be a part of a varsity team that went to the state finals two years, those were my proud moments,” said Centaurs senior middle hitter Sierra Bedard. “This year, it’s a lot different.”
Like all fall athletic programs, there is no state tournament this season due to the pandemic. There is also no league or divisional titles to play for.
The desire to win an ECC and state title this season even without Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year, Paula Hernandez who graduated, was certainly going to be high.
The Centaurs won’t have to worry about that. They will play 12 matches this fall. That’s it.
Most consider it a blessing to even be allowed to play as the sport is considered a medium-to-high risk by the state Department of Health when it comes to the transmission of the virus. One city in the state, New Haven, will not allow its schools to participate this season.
It may give the program a moment to step back and breathe.
Hernandez was such a dominant force (500 kills, 622 digs, 230 service points, 66 aces last season) that it was going to be near impossible to replace her.
“We’re going to lose that all-around player who was the best on the team in everything and that’s OK. We have a number of defensive specialists who can step in and pass and play defense for some of the hitters who may struggle a bit and take something off their plate. The effects are going to be felt less because of the circumstances of COVID,” said coach Adam Bottone.
The biggest circumstance is the schedule limitations. Perennial powers like RHAM, E. Lyme, Fitch, Greenwich, NFA, and Lyman are not on the agenda.
Instead, Woodstock Academy will be playing a heavily regional schedule with only matches against New London, Griswold and Norwich Tech briefly taking the Centaurs out of Windham County.
“A successful season for us will be to go out there and continue to improve, regardless if we play two matches or all 12,” Bottone said. “To get through the season will be an accomplishment, but I’m also looking at developing the skills and knowing what we need to prepare for next year or years down the road so I want to see development in the younger players.”
Bottone and his seniors will not get to work with a lot of their younger teammates on the court in matches.
The Centaurs have eight seniors: Bedard, setter Tabitha Bezanson, defensive specialist Sara Cotillo Soria, opposite hitter Kiliegh Gagnon, outside hitter Gabby Garbutt, middle hitter Amelia Large, and defensive specialist Marissa Mayhew.
Teams will only be allowed 10 players on the varsity bench. In years past, Bottone would mix varsity and junior varsity players.
“Since I’ve been on varsity, one of my biggest goals is to get the younger girls feeling comfortable, even if they aren’t on varsity, with the family that we have,” Mayhew said. “This year makes that even more important. They will have a more normal season next year and we don’t want (the program) to slack off. We want to make sure that Woodstock Academy is still well-known as having a very good volleyball team.”
Others who will see varsity time include juniors Annarose Avery (setter), Aurissa Boardman (outside hitter) and Elizabeth Loverin (defensive specialist). Bottone will also try to work sophomores Leila MacKinnon (opposite/outside hitter) and Alexandra Thompson (defensive specialist) into matches.
One thing all will have to adjust to is wearing a mask. Not only on the sideline, but when playing.
Volleyball Schedule: Thurs., Oct. 1: at New London, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 3:  at Griswold, 12:30 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 7: vs. Killingly, 5:30 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 9: at Norwich Tech, 5:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 17: vs. Griswold, 11:30 a.m.; Weds., Oct. 21:  at Killingly, 5:30 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 23: at Windham, 5:30 p.m.; Weds., Oct. 28: vs. Ellis Tech, 5:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 31: vs. Putnam, 11:30 a.m.; Tues., Nov. 3:  vs. New London, 5:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 6:  at Plainfield, 5:30 p.m.
Marc Allard
Director of Sports Information
The Woodstock Academy