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11/26/2022 03:23 PM

Kelly Leaving Behind a Volleyball Legacy as a Selfless Leader for the Hornets

Paige Kelly led the Hornets as a senior captain and All-SCC player in 2022.Photo courtesy of Paige Kelly

Paige Kelly has filled many roles for the Branford Hornets during her volleyball career. The senior captain has played both outside hitter and middle hitter. She consistently leads the team in kills while also contributing defensively and in the service game. When she walks off the court as a player for the final time, Paige hopes she leaves behind a strong foundation for a successful program.

On top of her on-court skills, this year Paige has focused on becoming a vocal leader for the team on the court, keeping teammates focused and in sync. Head Coach Mike Martone is grateful for her versatility.

“She scores a lot of points, she doesn’t always do it in the same way, she has great court vision, she also is a good passer, a very good all-around player. She communicates well and even on her not best days she’s still our leading scorer. So, she always finds a way to compete.”

Paige started playing volleyball in sixth grade and thanks inspiring coaches for keeping her passionate about the sport. When Coach Mike Martone joined the team in 2021, his desire to build a successful volleyball program resonated with Paige immediately. She bought into the mentality that they were not just playing for that game or even that season, but working to build a strong program foundation for Branford volleyball.

Paige says, “I’m just proud we finally found some coaches that are going to be there for a while, coaches that really love what they’re doing and want what’s best for the team. We’ve really created this family on the volleyball team, and I’m really happy and proud for the future of Branford volleyball.”

In building from the ground up, Paige has stuck it out through some tough seasons. In the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Branford won a total of

3 games each. As Paige has grown into an impact player, the team’s success has mirrored that growth, winning 16 games in 2021 and

11 games during this season.

In the first round of this year’s SCC Tournament, Branford came in as the 11 seed and faced

6 seeded North Haven. Paige and the Hornets upset the Nighthawks in straight sets 3-0 earning their biggest win of the season.

Coach Martone believes Paige played a massive role in the upset victory over North Haven. He mentions that it was through her ability to put points on the board, as well as her calm leadership of the team, keeping them focused when points didn’t fall their way.

“She’s integral to every game, we pretty much go as she goes,” Martone says. “[North Haven] is a good team and they went on a few runs and that can easily cause a shutdown for a team, and it didn’t happen which is partially because of her ability to stop those runs and her ability to be a leader on the court.”

Paige is quick to give credit to the team for the victory. “I feel like that was our best game we played all season” Paige says. “I think it was great as a team because we trusted each other and played that game together and won it together, it was a great game as a team.”

Deferring individual accolades in favor of team success is a common theme for the Branford senior. Being a part of the team culture is what makes Paige proudest when looking back on this season. However, there is no denying the impact she has every time she steps up to the net.

“She’s not a big boisterous person” Coach Martone says. “She just goes out there and dominates quietly and then goes home, usually with a big smile on her face, win or lose.”

Domination is an appropriate way to describe Paige’s play on the court. This year she totaled

270 kills, good enough for second in all of Class M during the 2022 regular season. Paige was named to the SCC All-Conference team alongside two teammates, junior Jenna DeFrancesco and fellow senior Alexandra Bietz. Paige is proud of the accomplishment and acknowledges the talent within the conference.

“I was very honored to be selected to All-SCC, I knew how competitive it was, so I was very grateful to hear that I was named second team All-SCC, especially alongside Allie and Jenna. I’m glad all three of us were named in such a hard conference.”

Through the season and through her career, Paige’s gauge for success has always been the team. Thanks to her dedication to that team, Branford’s arrival as an SCC force will continue beyond her final set.

“I’m most proud of how well our team was able to rise up over the tough schedule” says Paige. “We were able to come together well and learn from a lot of the teams we played. We really gelled together as a team, and I think we exceeded a lot of expectations…we’ve been the underdog the past few years and Branford volleyball is starting to become a competitive team in the SCC. I’m really grateful and happy for the future of Branford volleyball. I’m proud of the girls this year and how well we’ve done as a team.”