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09/27/2023 07:05 AM

Petrone Projects Loud and Clear as Captain for Valley Volleyball

Joanna Petrone has been a great defensive highlight for the Valley Regional volleyball team thus far this fall season as a libero and squad captain for the 4-3 Warriors. Photo courtesy of Joanna Petrone

With so many constant moving pieces on the chess board that is a volleyball court during any given match, keeping the lines of communication freely flowing is a big indicator of a squad’s success–something Joanna Petrone emphasizes on and off the floor as a defensive stalwart and leader.

The Valley Regional volleyball team senior libero and captain started playing the sport recreationally in 7th grade at John Winthrop Middle School. She then spent her freshman and sophomore years on the Warriors’ JV squad, including being a JV captain in the latter season. In the Warriors’ initial trio of games for 2023, Joanna flashed her defensive prowess at libero by recording 61 digs, adding 96 settable reception passes, and firing through three aces for 4-3 Valley.

“I have done a lot of offseason teams and camps, so putting in a lot of reps and points during the offseason has helped me. I also just keep striving to become a better player and also keep an open mind with others during the season,” says Joanna. “My friends and the people I have met through volleyball really helped me stick with the sport, and they make each day really fun for me. Volleyball has taught me how to be a good communicator, to not be afraid to call people out, and how to use constructive criticism and apply it in a positive way. It has made me a better person and listener for others.”

Valley volleyball Head Coach Jaimie Bickelhaupt commends her captain for being not only a great stopper on the spot for the Warriors, but additionally being a conveyer of a culture of court cohesion and competitiveness.

“Joanna is dedicated to creating an environment where we are competitive but close. She leads by example, and has shown a true passion for the sport,” says Bickelhaupt. “She is quite literally the backbone of the team, being our defensive specialist. She’s off to a great start, and I look forward to watching her continually grow and lead her team this year.”

From Joanna’s vantage point, she has a great view of the action and is in an affixed slot throughout the entire duration of a contest. Yet due to her sights, she also carries a great obligation to call out where the ball is likely heading, while the players around her are in a constant state of flux.

“I love being on the court in the back row the whole time and playing the position I love,” says Joanna. “I also like the advantage I have of seeing the whole court, but that also plays into the harder parts of it, because I must communicate what I see to all my teammates.”

As she came into the Valley volleyball family during the height of a pandemic, Joanna dealt with some isolation from her peers and coaches. However, that yielded way to a newfound appreciation and gratitude for the game, driving Joanna’s growth and determination to succeed in the sport that much more.

“I first started at the peak of COVID, so we could not go inside and only met together once a week. But it set me up to be more appreciative for every game and practice together, which helped me improve my mental game, which helped me become a better player,” Joanna says. “I have improved with my communication skills with my teammates through all of them switching in and out after every point. I have to work on being more of a technical player, such as reading body language to be one step ahead of the hitter.”

Now in a captain’s chair, Joanna is guarding and guiding a youthful bunch with the Warriors. In just a short stint thus far, she’s been relishing the opportunity to foster growth in those around her, while understanding the spotlight that is consistently shined on her when it comes to conduct on and off the court.

“Being a captain is great and I love it, but it is a lot of pressure to lead 30 girls to be the best they can be,” says Joanna. “You always have to be attentive and lead by example as a captain. It is about being confident and knowing I have the responsibility to make sure everyone puts in their best each day. It is important to better those around you.”

As she looks to head into college on her best academic footing, Joanna wants to stay planted within volleyball in a club capacity next year. But for right now, Joanna and the young Warriors are scrapping with the best in the Shoreline Conference and have come away with great moral victories in five-set defeats to defending Class S state champion East Hampton and runner-up Hale-Ray.

“I am in the process of applying for college and looking to stay on top of my academics. I would like to play intramural volleyball in college and stay active with it,” says Joanna. “It has been an adjustment this year with a young team, but even with our two losses to East Hampton and Hale-Ray, we showed we are on the same level as them. We have to stay confident, and I think we can go far in the Shoreline. Those losses were good confidence boosters, and they were a good adjustment for the younger girls to see the competition.”