Six matches into its season, the Sacred Heart Greenwich volleyball team has steadily shown significant improvement and after posting three stellar victories, is primed to face the challenging opponents on its schedule.
“We’re looking really good this season, especially to start off strong from the beginning,” Sacred Heart tri-captain middle hitter Lucy Catalano said. “I think we could do really well for the rest of the season, including in FAAs and even NEPSACs.”
The Tigers, who have already played formidable foes such as Choate Rosemary Hall and Deerfield Academy, went up against another tough opponent Monday in the form of visiting Greens Farms Academy, which entered the match with a record of 3-0.
Receiving standout play from multiple sources, Sacred Heart registered a decisive 3-0 win over Greens Farms Academy in a key early-season FAA match. Sophomore tri-captain Emilia Bernal registered eight kills and five digs for Sacred Heart, which won the match by set scores of 25-15, 25-13, 25-21.
“Our communication today was pretty good on the court,” said senior outside hitter/tri-captain Jules Ingram. “We definitely could work on serving, but we had a good amount of blocks and our defense was there today and we had some good offensive moves as well.”
Said Sacred Heart coach Beth Wilson-Jordan: “GFA has great defense. They go for everything and they never quit, so you may think the play is over, then they pull something out. We did some things really well – we had some great serves, which helped us.”
Freshman outside hitter Grace Gapen tallied eight kills, three digs and three aces, while sophomore Kaitlin Robinson, who helps power the Tigers’ middle, notched four kills in the winning effort.
“We attacked well, we swung a lot and we had a lot of contributors, which was great to see,” said Wilson-Jordan, whose team played two matches this past Saturday, defeating Pomfret and losing to Deerfield.
In the first set of Monday’s match against Greens Farms, the Tigers jumped out to leads of 7-2 and 10-4. Passing the serve well, enabled Sacred Heart to effectively run its offense. Freshman setter Evangelyn Forte helped keep the Tigers’ offense going, ringing up 25 assists. She also added two aces and one dig, while junior Martina Bernal had three kills and two aces for the victors.
In the second set, Sacred Heart again seized the advantage. A kill by Robinson at the net put the home team in front, 10-5. Emilia Bernal’s kill made it 13-6, then her strong serving helped the Tigers stretch its lead to 16-7. Gapen’s kill and senior outside hitter/captain Jules Ingram widened Sacred Heart’s second-game edge to 20-9.
The third and final game saw the Dragons move out on top. GFA held leads of 7-3, 12-8 and 14-10, but Sacred Heart rallied to go ahead, 17-16, for its first lead of the set. Strong serving, passing and hitting enabled the Tigers to hold off the Dragons – who defeated their first three FAA opponents – 25-21 to complete the 3-0 sweep.
Indeed, the captains are enjoying their increased roles on the team this fall, after the 2020 season was shortened and modified due to COVID-19 safety restrictions. Sacred Heart is playing a full schedule this season, including its FAA and NEPSAC opponents.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity to be a captain this year and I’m so excited to be able to play with this team and just grow together,” said Emilia Bernal, who noted that the road trip the team made this past Saturday to play Deerfield and Pomfret, was helpful.
“We definitely learned a lot and we bonded on the way there,” Bernal said. “We are a close-knit team and we talked to each other about what we need to improve on and that’s what we did.”
Said Ingram: “I feel so great about the team. It’s such an honor to be a captain of this team, because we have so many super talented and super skilled players. We have a good all-around team and the girls work so well together, it’s such a fun time.”
Senior Natalie Becue had three aces for Sacred Heart, which hosts longtime FAA rival King School on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
“Our serve receive we have been doing really well with this season,” Catalano said. “We have some super strong hitters and blocking – great offense. So all-around, we are looking pretty well-rounded for the season and we are excited to see how we do.”
Added Bernal: “Our serve receive has improved the most and a big part of it is the mental game and who you are next to. I’ve been seeing a lot of improvement, so I’m really happy about that.”
After King visits Sacred Heart on Wednesday, the Tigers will travel to Taft School on Saturday. Next week, they will face Hopkins School (Oct. 6), Holy Child (Oct. 9) and town rival Greenwich Academy (Oct. 13).
“We definitely want to get into the semifinals, finals of the FAA Tournament, but I think as a team, we want to come out and make sure we’re playing our best in every game,” Ingram said. “We want to be ready for our more competitive games.”