By, JOHN TORSIELLO
If you talk about girls volleyball at Wolcott Tech you start with consistency and a commitment to excellence.
Ray Tanguay has been the coach of the team for 24 years and assistant coach Jim Pepper joined the program 16 years ago. The coaches’ long tenures are a main reason for the Wildcats’ success in the Connecticut Technical Conference and n ability compete with the best teams in the state each season.
It was another great season for Tech in 2022. It finished the regular season with a gaudy 18-2 record, was ranked second in the state tournament, where the Wildcats received a first round bye and lost to Coginchaug in the second round.
The loss didn’t take anything away from the spectacular regular season and a successful defense of the Wildcats’ Connecticut Technical Conference tournament title. It was the third time Tech has won the Conference tournament championship. The `Cats have also claimed four regular season titles in the CTC.
In the Conference tournament, Tech beat Kaynor Tech in the quarterfinals, Whitney Tech in the semifinals and Prince Tech in the championships match. All matches went to three sets.
Last year’s team was 20-0, losing only to Class S state runner-up Coventry in the tournament quarterfinals.
“The team was excited to win the league title with two returning starters,” said Tanguay. “The juniors who didn’t play varsity last year stepped up and filled those four spots flawlessly. The all worked together as a unified front.”
Tanguay said the team worked together very well off the bat this season and, despite a few injuries, got better and better as the season progressed. They knew they had a good shot at accomplishing some lofty goals and focused intently during practices and games.
Said Tanguay, “Coach Pepper and I were very impressed with this team because they were the returning champions, and our goal we set together was to focus on the game and the moment, and not focus on the goal. If we focus on making the most of every moment, the end goal would take care of itself.”
The mentor cast a glance at the 2023 season when he said, “We return four juniors next year who will be seasoned seniors once the season starts. We also have a host of younger players ready to pick up where we left off.”
Key players this year were senior middle hitter, Zoie Matava, senior middle hitter Myckenzye Davis, junior outside hitter Laysha Guterriez, junior setter Brenna Johnson, junior outside hitter Lynzee Horton and junior outside hitter Mazie Connolly.
Matava averaged 5 aces, 8 kills, and 3 blocks a game this season, Davis 7 kills, 3 aces, and 4 blocks, Johnson 23 assists, and 4 digs; Horton 3 kills and 6 digs, Gutierrez 4 kills and 8 digs and Connolly 3 kills, and 1 block.
During the regular season Tech only lost to Whitney Tech in the second match of the campaign and Berkshire League foe Housatonic late in the campaign. The Wildcats were so dominant in most of their matches that they recorded 18 shutouts during the regular season.
Said Tanguay, “The success of the girls volleyball over the years is the chemistry between the team and the coaches who work together as one. The support of our families and friends on and off the court helps create a bond between everyone for the common good of the team.”
The deepest Tech has gone in the state tournament is in 2002 when the Wildcats reached the semifinals.
Building chemistry is crucial, said Tanguay, toward developing a tight knit unit. The team does the little things, not only during matches but in other ways as well. The players after each home match wash and dry the floor and clean the bleachers. Many of the players are members of the Class Act Council, which plans and executes community projects.
It is because of such non-competition, the girls have done their part in ensuring that Wolcott Tech has the honor of winning the state Michaels Cup Award five times in a row after wins and losses were eliminated from the criteria.
When the team gathers for its first practice next fall, the message Tanguay and Pepper deliver to the players will be the same as before every season; qualify for the state tournament and reach at least the second round. The standard for each successive team has been set high. Tech players in 2023 will gladly embrace the message from their coaches.