Sagnelli Talks Upcoming Spring Season

CCSU+has+not+played+in+a+game+that+has+gone+over+three+sets+yet.

Steve McLaughlin

CCSU has not played in a game that has gone over three sets yet.

Ryan Jones, Editor-in-Chief

Central Connecticut State University’s volleyball team did not play a game against another opponent last fall. Like many other programs across the country, the Blue Devils were only allowed to practice. Despite this, head coach Linda Sagnelli said she frequently told her team, “If anyone walked into this gym right now, we’re ready to go. Anybody in the conference. I don’t care who it is, we’re ready to go.”

The Blue Devils will finally get the chance to prove their skills this spring after going nearly a year in between games.

Volleyball is one of the nine sports that will be played on campus this spring at Central Connecticut. The abbreviated structure of the season makes it look different from any before it.

The Blue Devils are scheduled to play in 12 games against fellow Northeast Conference teams. The biggest difference comes in the timing for these games. Teams play in two matches against the same opponent on the same day to reduce travel. Each match is typically separated¬† by a few hours. While this is something commonly seen in preseason tournaments, playing a conference opponent twice in the same day is almost unheard of, but Sagnelli said that it is “very doable” so long as things like rest are accounted for.

The regular season for the Blue Devils starts on March 2 and finishes on March 31. Instead of the regular postseason tournament, the No.1 seed will host the No. 2 seed for the NEC Championship on April 3.

Sagnelli said her team is up for the challenge of a season in a pandemic after the strong fall practices they had.

In lieu of games against other programs, Central Connecticut scrimmaged against each other in the fall. Sagnelli said that a high competitiveness level could be felt in the gym on scrimmage days.

“It was great to watch,” Sagnelli said. “I felt like I was at a real game.”

The Blue Devils did not spend all fall doing drills. Sagnelli wanted to make sure her team was able to have fun while still improving for the chance to play this March.

“The two hours that we spent in the gym everyday were like an escape for everybody,” Sagnelli said. “To think that we could go almost three months and not see another team walk in our gym and still have so much fun shows how committed the team is to each other and to the sport.”

The team’s commitment to each other showed in the product on the court this fall, Sagnelli said.

“You would never know that we were only practicing,” Sagnelli said. “Our kids played just as hard all fall as if we had a game the next day.”

Apart from their successful training on the court, Sagnelli also praised the team’s responsibility in adapting to the pandemic.

“I’m so impressed by how they took the threat of the illness seriously,” Sagnelli said. “As far as priorities go, keeping each other safe is probably the top one. I can’t think of another thing that could be more important than that, but those are empty words unless people believe them. Our team really took it to heart and changed their behavior to make sure that our bubble of volleyball could keep going from week to week.”

Playing in the spring season will not take away any time from student athlete’s eligibility. The Blue Devils have five seniors on their roster, including reigning defensive player of the year Ashlyn Eisenga. “I believe the intentions of all five are to stay,” Sagnelli said in reference to next fall.

The five freshmen on the Blue Devils were able to showcase their potential last fall in scrimmages and practice. Sagnelli has a lot of praise for the group, while also adding, “this class has got a lot of personality. It will not be boring for the next three-to-four years, that’s for sure.”

Central Connecticut graduated a number of key players last year, leaving some starting jobs open for some of the underclassmen to compete for.

While the team is itching to get back on the court, but it’s not the first concern, according to Sagnelli.

“We have guarded optimism,” Sagnelli said. “We all want to play but of course we all have the health and safety of our everyone that’s involved first and foremost in our minds.”

Like everything else today, there are still a lot of unknowns about how this season will go for the NEC. For now, Sagnelli said “you just have to do your best and then hope for the best as well.”