Warriors Enjoy a Winning Week on the Court
Senior captain Madison Nevaiser and the Valley girls’ volleyball squad took two of three last week by defeating North Branford and Hale-Ray to go with a loss against Coginchaug. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Senior captain Salmi Miller had 11 digs with seven kills and six aces when the Warriors claimed a 3-1 home win versus North Branford on Oct. 12. (File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)
In her first year as head coach of the Valley Regional girls’ volleyball squad, Sofia Cullina, joined by her sister and assistant coach Katie Cullina, inherited a Warriors’ roster loaded with experienced athletes. After seeing their team pick up two wins last week, the Cullina sisters are hoping that Valley will continue using its experience to its advantage heading into the home stretch of the season.
Valley played matches against North Branford, Hale-Ray, and Coginchaug last week. The Warriors earned a 3-1 win versus North Branford and then edged out Hale-Ray by a 3-2 score before taking a 3-1 loss to Coginchaug. Valley has a record of 7-8 with five matches left in the regular season.
On Oct. 12, Valley hosted North Branford and took the match by a 3-1 (15-25, 25-13, 25-10, 25-5) final. Senior captain Madison Nevaiser had 16 digs with seven kills and four aces for the Warriors, while fellow senior captain Salmi Miller recorded 11 digs with seven kills and six aces. Junior Sophia Scrivo had 23 assists, 15 digs, and nine aces in the victory. Fellow junior Kaia Karcich punched up 35 digs and dealt out four aces to help Valley prevail.
“We took a loss to North Branford in the beginning of the season. We had a lot of motivation going into that game,” Head Coach Sofia Cullina said. “We played a really good game, taking them in four sets. Our energy was really high, and our motivation to beat them was super high.”
The next day, Valley played a road match against Hale-Ray and triumphed by a 3-2 score. Valley won the first two sets 25-17 and 25-23 before dropping the next two 16-25 and 12-25. The Warriors went on to play their best game in the decisive fifth set and took the final frame 15-11 to walk off the court victorious.
“Hale-Ray was a team we lost to early in the season, where we hadn’t really found our rhythm yet. We got to show up and play them as the team we have been working hard to be since the beginning of the season,” said Assistant Coach Katie Cullina. “To come away with a win, it showed that their hard work had paid off. There were some tears shed.”
Valley finished its week by taking a 3-1 (25-23, 26-24, 21-25, 25-12) home loss to Coginchaug on Oct. 15. Despite the defeat, Sofia Cullina felt that the Warriors put forth a solid effort and competed hard for every point.
Valley is being led by four senior captains in Nevaiser and Miller, who both play outside hitter, along with defensive specialist Emi Bisson and right side hitter Chase Conrad. With she and her sister coaching the team for the first time, Sofia Cullina said it took some time for this year’s Warriors to get used to their coaching style. However, as the season has progressed, Valley’s head coach has seen the captains demonstrate exactly why they earned that role.
“At first, with us being new coaches, it took some time to settle in. But throughout the season, we have grown a bond with them. We got to see why they’re captains,” Sofia Cullina said. “They have great leadership qualities, and they contribute a lot to the team on and off the court.”
In addition to the seniors, Sofia Cullina has been impressed with the play of two juniors in Scrivo and Audrey Board. Both athletes played on the JV squad last season before making the jump to varsity this year. Scrivo plays setter, while Board plays in the middle. Sofia Cullina said that both players have shown that they deserve to be on the varsity floor and are proving valuable assets for the Warriors.
Of the 15 players on this year’s team, 14 of those people are either juniors or seniors. The one sophomore on the squad is Ava Frost, a defensive specialist. Katie Cullina said that Frost is an aggressive and consistent player who puts in quality minutes when she gets her number called. Furthermore, both of the Cullina sisters feel that having a veteran roster has helped them get acclimated in their first season as Warriors’ coaches.
“It has been really beneficial for us. They have already grown as a team and as players,” said Sofia Cullina. “Our main job was coming in, bonding, and teaching them how to work together. They knew volleyball skills. Our job was finding that rhythm and helping them work together on the court.”
Prior to its loss to Coginchaug, Valley was on a three-match winning streak. That run had come on the heels of a five-match losing streak. During that stretch, the Warriors sat down and discussed why they played the sport of volleyball. When Valley returned to the floor, the team was refocused and ready to play together as a collective unit.
“We had a long conversation with the team about working together and being united. We had some missed connections for a few games and lost our rhythm. We took a step back and reevaluated why they’re here and why they’re playing volleyball,” Sofia Cullina said. “When they went back on the court, they came back fighting and ready to play together.”
As Valley completes its regular season, Katie Cullina feels this year’s team is capable of beating anyone in the Shoreline Conference as long everyone works together. She wants this team to have a season that they’ll remember long after graduation. In order to get there, Sofia Cullina knows that the Warriors need to compete and communicate as a unified group on the court.
“We have to work together. We have a lot of great players. When they come together as one, it’s like magic,” said Sofia Cullina. “We just have to remember to communicate and have energy. We have to show each other we want to win. When we do that, that’s what makes us successful.”
The Valley Regional girls’ volleyball team’s roster features senior captains Emi Bisson, Chase Conrad, Salmi Miller, and Madison Nevaiser; fellow seniors Ella Pitman and Esha Shah; juniors Audrey Board, Riley Burch, Raquel Farray, Lily Frese, Kaia Karcich, Addison Keyworth, Brooke Rankin, and Sophie Scrivo; and sophomore Ava Frost.