Welcome to the 2015 Season

Month – September 2011

RHAM Seniors Not Resting On Laurels

By SHAWN COURCHESNE, scourchesne@courant.com, The Hartford Courant

The six seniors on RHAM-Hebron’s girls volleyball team have only known success in their careers — the Sachems are the four-time defending state Class M champions..

But coach Tim Guernsey is making sure there’s one thing those seniors know, a matter he says keeps complacency after years of success from creeping in.

While they may have been part of the title runs, the glory is not theirs.

“I think the one thing that I do well is making sure our groups are humble,” Guernsey said. “One of the things that we have been preaching for the last four years is that each year is that senior group’s state title. We graduated two girls last year and that was their state title. I have six seniors this year, that, nothing for nothing, they haven’t accomplished anything as a senior group. They’ve had the pleasure of being part of something, but it’s not theirs. This season is theirs and what they make of it is how they’ll leave their legacy.”

The RHAM lineup is anchored behind senior setter Laura Smolinski (711 assists in 2010) and sophomore outside hitter Sarah Veilleux (159 kills).

Behind them is senior outside hitter Alicia Tripoli (204 digs, 108 kills), senior right side hitter Kelsey Kirkpatrick (157 kills) and senior libero Kara Trippel (346 digs), last year’s Class M final MVP.

“I feel very fortunate,” Guernsey said. “I have good kids and I’ve been fortunate to have really good athletes and kids that are committed to what we’re doing. There’s a lot schools out there that have great athletes but kids aren’t committed to getting better. I have kids that are committed and buy into what I’m saying and I feel very fortunate for that.”

In 10 years at RHAM, Guernsey has built a program from scratch and guided it into being Class M’s dominant force.

“That first year, we played 18 games, all of them away, and we were 0-18,” Guernsey said. “I had some athletes, but back then I knew nothing about the game. I was a teacher at the school and the athletic director asked me if I would give volleyball a try and I said sure.

“Kids are interested in the sport now. Ten years ago when we started the program there was nothing there. Each year, I’m getting more and more. We have 15 freshmen trying out this year. There’s definitely a buzz in town. Kids want to play and we’re packing the house. The buzz is there around school as far as wanting to see games. Kids are definitely interested and committed now. They put a lot of time in in the offseason getting better at what they’re doing. That’s exactly what you need to be successful.”

During its four-year title run, RHAM has lost only one game in the finals, three of which were against Barlow-Redding. Barlow lost 3-0 in 2007 and ’09 and 3-1 last year. In the 2008 finals, RHAM blanked Law-Milford, 3-0.

Guernsey said last year’s title run helped harden many of this year’s players.

RHAM nets win in clash of champions, by Rich Zalusky

It was late in Game 2 with the score knotted at 24-all when RHAM girls’ volleyball coach Tim Guernsey turned to his assis­tant Shaun Keane.

Guernsey had a feeling whoever won Game 2 would win the match because it was so emotional and so tense.

After saving two set points, RHAM was unable to come through on the third as East Lyme evened up the match at one game each with a 27-25 victory.

What was the message Guernsey gave to his team in the five-minute break before Game 3?

“We needed to make sure that we came out a little more energetic and a little more enthusiastic,” Guernsey said. “We needed to keep the pressure on early.

“And I just hoped what I was feeling — in regards to the outcome of Game 2 — didn’t turn out that way.”

For RHAM, things would turn out the right way as afternoon turned into evening Tuesday.

Laura Smolinski finished with 32 assists and Alicia Tripoli would finish things off with an ace on match point as 4-time defending Class M state champion RHAM (5-0) defeated last year’s Class L champion East Lyme (4-1) 25-23, 25-27, 25-19, 25-15.

“This was a great win against a great program,” Guernsey said. “We still have a lot of work to do and can’t have any letdowns along the way.”

RHAM and East Lyme will both play in Class L when state tourna­ment time comes around.

The Sachems began to seize control of the match with a 4-point run late in Game 3 that opened up a 22-16 advantage with sophomore Sarah Veilleux (16 kills, 6 digs) and senior Kelsey Kirkpatrick (6 kills, 7 digs) providing book-ending kills.

Veilleux put away several eye-opening swings throughout the match, including one that landed between three players to close out Game 3, 25-19.

“Sarah just pounds the heck out of the ball,” Guernsey said. “She’s a lot more confident this year.”

The momentum from the clos­ing stretch carried immediately into Game 4 as RHAM bolted out to an 8-0 lead behind three kills from Veilleux and seven service points from Kara Trippel (23 digs, 19-of-23 serving).

It also highlighted the passing ability of Smolinski, the latest in a line of quality setters for RHAM, a list that includes Mallory Mangan and Ellie Linden.

“Laura doesn’t need the per­fect pass to set because she’s strong enough to get the ball up,” Guernsey said. “The pass just has to be high enough to get to her. She makes our passers and our hitters better.”

What was even more impressive was the play of RHAM junior middle- hitters Francesca Mack and Briana Geoghegan. Both were dominant in stretches in keep­ing balls alive as well as keep­ing East Lyme’s dangerous hitter — Raeann Nesta (22 kills) — in check.

“ Briana is a solid defensive stopper for us and Francesca is a little more aggressive-minded in the middle,” Guernsey said. “No question what they both did with blocks was key.

Against East Lyme, you don’t want Nesta to get herself going.”

Maggie Swenson finished with 37 assists for the Vikings, who never threatened once RHAM built its early Game 4 lead — get­ting as close as 18-12.

Consecutive kills from Kirkpatrick gave RHAM its first match point at 24-15 before Tripoli finished things out.

Down the road RHAM will face the likes of Southington, Glastonbury and Norwich Free Academy along with matches against an improved CCC East Division with Tolland, E.O. Smith and Rocky Hill.

“What makes us good is that we can attack from anywhere on the floor,” Guernsey said. “At times, though, even in the last game today, we were just hitting free balls over the net instead of just swinging to put pressure on them.

“We have to get out of the rut of playing safe all the time.”

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Tryouts Rescheduled for Tuesday

RHAM volleyball will hold tryouts on Tuesday after school from 2:30 to 4:30 pm and then from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Athletes MUST have their signed permission slips (see the high school website to download) and an updated physical in order to try out. We don’t have time to waste, so don’t miss these forms!

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