Volleyball Sweeps Games In Home Opener


Steve McLaughlin

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

Ryan Jones, Editor-in-Chief

Central Connecticut volleyball swept its first two home games Tuesday against Merrimack. The games marked the first time in 480 days that the Blue Devils had played on their home court.

Volleyball, like many other sports being played this spring, will have a different format than normal. Teams will be facing off against each other two times in one day to reduce travel and possible exposure to COVID-19.

The Blue Devils ran away with the first game against Merrimack, outscoring the Warriors 75-35 over the three sets played.

One of the biggest question marks heading into the season was how the team would fill in the roles of players who had graduated. Madelyn Kaprelyan, former Northeast Conference Player of the Year, was one of the most notable departures from the program. Her partner on the right side, Erin McDermott, also graduated, leaving the right side wide open for the Blue Devils.

Luckily for CCSU, there has been a player waiting in the wings for this opportunity.

Junior Natalie Novak only played in eight matches for the Blue Devils last season and is now filling one of the most important roles on the team. So far, she has impressed both physically and mentally. This has not come at a surprise to head coach Linda Sagnelli.

“She’s always had the ability, I just don’t think she was given the chance yet,” Sagnelli said. “She’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

Sagnelli had more high praise for the junior from New York.

“I give all the props to Natalie. We can coach and tell athletes how to get better, it’s whether they have the drive to do that. She has enough drive for everyone on the team.”

After running away with the first game, the second match against Merrimack was a bit closer of a fight. The second set in particular was most troublesome for the Blue Devils. Sagnelli explained that the team had some problems dealing with Merrimack’s setter, which led to the Warriors holding a late 22-21 lead in the second set. CCSU snapped back into things following a timeout and rattled off a 4-0 run that sealed victory in the second set.

CCSU won the third and final set of the day by double digits.

At first, Sagnelli said the team questioned how they would be able to play so much volleyball at one time. None of their games so far have gone longer than three sets, which has made the transition to this style much smoother.

“I think that all the teams are finding that in the situation that we’re in, [the format] is a good enough to play, especially to reduce exposure, travel and things like that,” Sagnelli said.

Coming off the long hiatus was difficult in CCSU’s opening matches of the season against Sacred Heart, Sagnelli said. While Sacred Heart had already logged five games in, CCSU was still shaking off the rust on the Pioneer’s court.

“Those 480 days were something,” Sagnelli said. “It was our first match and their fifth match, and boy could you tell. We were just deer in the headlights for a bit.”

Sagnelli added that a win not only feels good but also “got us back into a rhythm.”

The Blue Devils were originally scheduled to play St. Francis Brooklyn this Friday for their next doubleheader, but positive COVID-19 test results from within SFB’s program has forced the postponement of that game. There are discussions about a possible fill in game against another NEC school, but nothing has been finalized yet for that. CCSU’s next scheduled games will another home series, taking on the LIU Sharks, who are 4-0 in the early goings of the season.