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Olivia Petersen is taking on some big roles with the North Haven volleyball team as both the setter and a junior captain for the Indians this fall. Olivia is also a member of the North Haven softball program and batted .379 as the Indians’ left fielder last spring. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Petersen )
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Olivia Petersen has been a fixture on the softball field for years, but when she came to North Haven High School, Olivia decided that she wanted to try her hand at volleyball. Now, she’s seeing success on the court, as well.
Olivia started playing softball when she was 10 and promptly earned a starting spot on the Indians’ varsity squad as a freshman. Earlier that year, Olivia joined a few of her friends on North Haven’s volleyball team, and the experience was a whole new world since she’d never played the sport. It was a little overwhelming for Olivia at first, but she worked hard to learn everything she could about volleyball, from the rules to how to play the setter’s position.
Now a junior, Olivia’s commitment to becoming a solid volleyball player has resulted in a pair of coveted distinctions. For one, this fall marks Olivia’s first year as North Haven’s starting varsity setter. On top of that, Olivia has earned the honor of serving as one of the Indians’ captains for the 2017 season.
“I think it’s crazy that I went from, just two years ago, playing JV, starting once in a while, and not knowing what a setter was, to now starting varsity as a setter and having to lead the whole team,” Olivia says. “I think it’s a good role for me. I like being able to lead the team in the right direction to succeed...When we’re up and excited during games, I have a way of keeping us up and excited. When we’re down and things aren’t going our way, I want to help bring us back together.”
Olivia wasn’t expecting to be leading North Haven as a junior captain, but Head Coach Brianna Kleckner encouraged her to put her name in the running. After the Indians’ athletes casted their votes, Olivia was selected as a captain with seniors Caroline Gabrielle and Courtney Babbidge. Olivia was shocked when Kleckner told her the news.
“I actually thought she was kidding when she told me I got it. I honestly didn’t think she was serious, but she was actually serious, and so I was very surprised and really happy,” says Olivia. “Being noticed as someone who could lead our team as a junior is a good thing, and I think it made me realize that I have leadership qualities for our team. The three of us get along well, and it’s good to have three captains all deciding things together, working together, and relaying info to the rest of the team. We really work well together.”
Coach Kleckner says that Olivia is doing a phenomenal job as a leader for the Indians, because of her unrelenting work ethic, as well as the fact that she’s such a caring teammate.
“Every day, Olivia comes to practice and puts in 100-percent effort, and there really is not one other person on that team that will ever outwork her, because she never has an off day,” says Kleckner. “The fact that she’s a leader who always puts the team before herself, it was obvious to us and her peers that she is one of our captains. We don’t care how old she is.”
Kleckner, who was a setter, adds that she’s impressed with how Olivia has been performing at that pivotal position throughout the early goings of this season. Olivia has 107 assists thus far this year.
“She’s running around like a crazy person out there, getting the ball in the air for our hitters to swing at and terminate the ball, and she’s been doing that in the craziest situations,” Kleckner says. “The ball is passed 15 feet off the net, and Olivia will come out of nowhere and get her hand on the ball perfectly for someone to swing at.”
Olivia had a lot to learn when steeping into the setter’s role. She appreciates how Kleckner and North Haven’s previous setters, Antonia Barbiero and Jess McInnis, taught her how to play that position.
“It was very, very, very hard,” Olivia says. “I would have to ask [Barbiero] questions when I was a freshman and, once we got a new coach, she really helped me get used to being a setter and taught me a lot last year and helped me make the huge steps that I didn’t think I could make in a short amount of time...I really like it. I’m happy that I chose to be a setter when I was a freshman. If I was able to choose another one, I probably wouldn’t. Setting is the most fun.”
Olivia has patrolled different positions in each of her two years with the North Haven softball team. She started at shortstop in her freshman year and then played left field as a sophomore last spring, making no errors, while throwing out four base-runners. Olivia has also seen time at both spots throughout her travel softball career, most recently playing the outfield for the Cheshire Wildcats.
Olivia raised her batting average from .286 to .379 between her freshman and sophomore years. As North Haven’s No. 2 batter, she led the team with 16 sacrifice bunts last season. However, Olivia wasn’t shy about swinging away, as evidenced by her 20 hits that included two doubles, two triples, and a home run for the Indians, who won 20 games, claimed the Oronoque Division title, and went on nice runs in the SCC and Class L State tournaments.
Just like Kleckner, North Haven softball Head Coach Sally Maher has nothing but rave reviews for Olivia regarding her performance in all phases of the game.
“Olivia is a really good bunter, so she’s good with moving runners over when we need her to...but when it’s her turn to hit, she comes through with clutch hits, as well,” says Maher. “Olivia has a great work ethic and comes to work every day at practice and in games. You don’t have to tell Olivia to do something. She just does it and works hard.”
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