Newtown High School’s girls’ volleyball team enters into the new campaign with expectations for runs in postseason tournaments once again this year. The perennial South-West Conference title contenders, after winning consecutive championships, fell in a tough-to-swallow semifinal clash with Weston a year ago. This season the Nighthawks hope to get back to the pinnacle SWC match for a chance to reclaim their spot at the top, but winning it isn’t a win or bust season in the eyes of the coach.
“Our outlook is the same every year — we want to improve on what we did last year,” Coach Tom Czaplinski said.
In terms of playoff success, that means getting to final round of the SWC tourney and to the semis of the Class LL state bracket; the Nighthawks reached state quarterfinals a season ago.
“I think it’s going to take a lot of work, but we can win SWCs,” said senior captain Meghan Logan, the team’s setter.
Logan and fellow senior captain Mylas Post, a weak-side hitter, are joined by middle hitters Kayla O’Grady and Mackenzie Lapp, and outside hitter Cassie Ekstrom — all seniors and returnees. Junior outside hitter Kyle Dandrea is among the experienced returnees, and senior Tessa Janiak is new to the team and will be the defensive specialist as the libero.
The Nighthawks have a little rebuilding to do following the loss of six players — five to graduation and one, Sarah Kelly, to transfer.
“We’re a small group. We’re just working on the basics, working on communication and passing,” Czaplinski said during a preseason practice at NYA Sports & Fitness Center. “I think our hitting right now is one of our biggest strengths.”
The Newtown coach notes that hitting will only be effective if the passing game is on, so he’s counting on improvement there. Czaplinski also noted that the serving game seems to be a strong suit.
Joel Barlow of Redding is always one of Newtown’s toughest competitors, and Masuk of Monroe appears to be another strong SWC opponent, Czaplinski said.
The coach observed the team members make strides as the preseason unfolded, and he expects that trend to continue throughout September and October. “As the year progresses I think we’re only going to get stronger,” he said.
“We’re just looking to blend all together and have a great senior year,” Post added.