The 2021 season just kept getting better for the Greenwich High School girls volleyball team.
After producing an outstanding regular season, the Cardinals won the FCIAC Tournament championship, then continued their great success in the CIAC Class LL Tournament.
Going undefeated in the Class LL Tournament, Greenwich captured the state title, defeating Fairfield Ludlowe, 3-1, in the championship game. The win gave the Cardinals their third state CIAC Class LL championship and concluded an eye-opening 26-1 2021 season.
Now three matches into their 2022 campaign, the Cardinals are on the same type of winning pace. Greenwich ran its record to 3-0 with a well-earned 3-1 win over visiting Trumbull in an FCIAC matchup held on Tuesday. The Cardinals entered the season with a new head coach, since Steve Lapham retired after 29 highly successful seasons at the helm.
Lapham guided Greenwich to three CIAC Class LL titles and a wealth of winning seasons. Taking over the head coaching reigns is Marianna Linnehan, who previously guided the girls varsity program at Westhill. Linnehan is also a teacher at Greenwich High School.
“It’s very exciting, because now I get to see these girls every day and teach and coach them at the same time,” Linnehan said. “I teach health and physical education here and I’ve had some of them in my class.”
Linnehan is coaching a Cardinals team that returns a strong nucleus from last season’s championship squad, including senior captains Maggie Saleeby, Lucia Spanjol and Katherine Ford.
Saleeby, an outside hitter, earned All-FCIAC Third Team honors last season and has been a member of the varsity team for several seasons.
“Last season was great and I am super excited to have some fun and continue our success from last year,” Saleeby said. “It’s all about the connection with our team. Being an outside there’s a lot of new girls who haven’t played the hitting position this year, so it’s all about supporting my other teammates and making sure they have a good connection with me.”
Spanjol also received All-FCIAC Third Team recognition in 2021. She is one of the Cardinals’ setters, a position that enables the offense to click.
“I think that it’s easy for me to move the ball around, because everyone can get a kill on the team,” Spanjol said. “It’s easy moving it around.”
Ford, an outside hitter, is also coming off a stellar junior season. She’ll be relied upon to help power the Cardinals’ offense. Though it’s early in the season, GHS has already shown solid chemistry with its first-season varsity players getting comfortable with the squad’s systems.
“We’ve been doing good, we’ve been working on playing together, because we don’t have the same players as last year, but we’ve been doing a lot of team bonding and it’s helping us get closer,” Ford said. “We’re doing a good job of communicating and playing together on the court.”
Among some of the seniors who graduated from last season’s Class LL and FCIAC championship team were Liana Sarkissian, Adele Sotgiu and Sophie Jones. Sarkissian was chosen as the Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year and was an All-FCIAC First Team selection. Sotgiu also earned First Team All-FCIAC honors and Jones received All-FCIAC Honorable Mention recognition.
Linnehan appreciates the experience and leadership this season’s captains bring to the court.
“The three captains, they’ve been together for a while, so they are used to each other,” Linnehan said. “They work well together and they are super supportive of their teammates.”
In Tuesday’s 3-1 triumph against Trumbull, Greenwich received nine kills, 14 digs and three blocks from Saleeby. Spanjol registered 24 assists, sophomore Alina Sarkissian, Liana’s sister, posted 12 kills and junior Hayley Dionis notched 14 digs.
“Our serve receive got really, really good towards the end of the game,” Spanjol noted. “Hayley, Maggie, Joy (Houdre), they were all passing well so it was a lot easier to run the offense. For most of the game, we were all communicating really well and playing as a team.”
Kills from Saleeby and Sarkissian and solid serving from Houdre helped pace the Cards in their first game win against Trumbull. In the second game, GHS edged Trumbull, 25-23, behind more kills from Sarkissian and Saleeby, strong defense from Dionis and key serving from Ford.
After Trumbull took the third set, Greenwich rebounded to win the fourth and raise its record to 3-0.
“Today’s match was definitely a tough one,” Saleeby said. “Trumbull has always been very strong. After that third set, we knew we had to find their weaknesses and go back to basics and pull through.”
Said Spanjol: “It’s always fun to have good competition, they have always been one of our biggest competitors.”
Greenwich visits FCIAC foe Brien McMahon tomorrow, then hosts Fairfield Ludlowe on Tuesday in a rematch of last season’s Class LL championship match.
“We do have things that we need to work on like every other team,” Linnehan said. “They are very talented, it’s just about me getting the right rotations and systems together for the rest of the season.”
Following their 2021 season to remember, the Cardinals, of course, have high expectations for themselves this fall.
“We want to win states and FCIACs again – that’s our goals,” Ford said. “Winning it all last year was crazy. It was amazing, it was really fun and we can do it again if we put in hard work and play well as a team. Having good team bonding really helps.”