Yellowjackets Prepping to Play with One Major Change
Senior captain Tori Heaphy, Head Coach Craig Brown, and their fellow members of the East Haven girls’ volleyball squad are staying optimistic that the Yellowjackets will get to take the court and play this fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Carly Cordova and her Easties’ teammates will be required to wear masks during matches if the 2020 season winds up happening. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Taylor Salato is one of several athletes on the Yellowjackets who wants to play volleyball after the end of her junior basketball season was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The East Haven girls’ volleyball team is continuing with its preparation to compete in 2020—with one notable modification. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) recently announced that all volleyball players will be required to wear masks during matches if the campaign ends up taking place.
Head Coach Craig Brown is staying hopeful that East Haven will be able play this fall, especially since several key members of the team saw their winter and spring seasons canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Senior captains Carly Cordova and Tori Heaphy are members of the East Haven softball team, while fellow senior Taylor Salato plays basketball for the Yellowjackets. Coach Brown wants everyone on his squad to follow the guidelines in order to get their opportunity to hit the court.
“We’re excited. We have a lot of multi-sport athletes on this team,” Brown said. “We’ve had a lot of girls on this volleyball team suffer a lot of lost seasons because of this. We are definitely working hard to obey the rules and be by the books. That way, no one can take this season from us.”
After putting a brief pause on fall sports activities, the CIAC ruled that teams could participate in non-contact sport-specific skillwork on Aug. 29 in advance of a tentative season opener on Thursday, Oct. 1. When the Easties grouped as a team, they practiced on the blacktop basketball court behind the high school in cohorts of 10 people or fewer for no more than one hour a day. The state Department of Health (DPH) had recently made a recommendation to hold volleyball matches outdoors, but the CIAC is still planning to hold matches indoors with the new mask modification.
“They’re a little sporadic, but that’s to be expected. Right now, we’re only allowed one hour per cohort,” said Brown of the team’s practices. “We’re doing 30 minutes of conditioning as recommended by the CIAC and Connecticut DPH. Realistically, we’re only getting 30 minutes of ball time, including warming up. We get about 20 minutes of actual practice. We’re making progress, but it’s much slower paced.”
East Haven’s practices also served as the team’s tryouts. There were 22 people who wound up making the final roster, including seven seniors. Aside from outside hitter Cordova, outside hitter/libero Heaphy, and middle blocker Salato, the Easties’ seniors are opposite hitters Kayla Goodrich and Gia Buonfiglio, middle blocker Brooke Clancy, and defensive specialist Megan Gaudioso.
As the Yellowjackets get ready for what could be a unique season, Coach Brown said that his seniors are up for the task and have been willing to take on any hurdle thrown their way.
“It’s everything I need right now. It’s one of the things that keeps the coaches coming back. They’re excited to be here,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, a lot of them have lost seasons because of this. For us to have this chance to play, you can see they’re excited and ready to work. We only get 30 minutes of ball work, and you can hear them grumbling at the end of the day that we’re done. They’re ready to take the next step.”
The next step would be full team practices on Monday, Sept. 21, dependent on the state’s COVID metrics. The CIAC is slated to make an announcement on Friday, Sept. 18 about whether or not that will happen.
Despite all of the uncertainties, Coach Brown said that the Yellowjackets are attacking this season just like any other year. Regardless of how many matches that his team gets to play, Brown wants East Haven to puts its fair share of victories in the books.
“It’s varsity high school athletics. We’re still playing to win games,” said Brown. “We are going to go out there and operate normally, play to win games, compete for postseason berths, and do everything we can from there. This senior group hasn’t missed a playoff game in their career, and they’re looking to add on to it. We’re looking to play these games and develop as a program.”