Upon entering high school, Caitlin Stapleton tried out for the Jonathan Law volleyball team. After making the freshman and JV team her first year, she became a three-year Varsity player. During her sophomore year off season, Caitlin joined the Connecticut juniors’ club team where her potential, skills and passion for the game really started to develop. With the coaching, support and exposure her travel team gave to her, Caitlin was able to catch the attention of many college coaches. During her junior year, Caitlin made the decision to commit to Fairfield University.
Throughout her career as a right side hitter / blocker at Fairfield, Caitlin earned several accolades including MAAC Rookie of the Year. She was instrumental in helping the Stags win back-to-back MAAC championship titles. Caitlin was voted to the MAAC championship all-tournament team twice and received all-MAAC first team honors twice as well as helping Fairfield gain 2 NCAA Division 1 tournament berths. She led the team in kills-per-set and overall hitting percentage in her senior year, and capped her career with a personal-best 22 kills, on a .562 hitting percentage with a win over Manhattan. This accomplishment earned Caitlin a membership in the 1000 + kills Club.
The most rewarding part of Caitlyn’s college experience, however, was how much she was able to grow, not only as an athlete, but as a person. The support she received from coaches, teammates and the entire athletic staff at Fairfield University has had a lasting impact on Stapleton. Today, volleyball is still a huge part of her life. She has competed at the USAV open national championships every year since graduation, and plays and tournaments all year round, whether indoors, on the grass, or beach.
Currently Caitlin is pursuing her other passion to help people and animals. While continuing her pet care / dog-walking business full-time, Caitlin is also studying to become an integrative health coach. She is excited to partner with her own clients, helping them move in the direction of lifelong health and well-being, by not only practicing good nutrition habits, but more importantly making important life style changes. Caitlin also serves as an assistant on the Fairfield women’s volleyball team staff.
Donna grew up in Middletown, CT and played multiple sports for the Tigers during her years there, graduating in 1983. Her favorite sport was volleyball where she played has setter for 4 years; junior and senior years on the Varsity Squad and Captain her senior year. Coach Paul Cavaliere led her team to the state semifinal in 1982.
Donna continued her volleyball career as a freshman walk-on for the Bentley University Falcons in the fall of 1983. Coach Sandy Hoffman was a second-year coach and a great influence. Sandy improved the team from an average season of 19 – 12 to a successful 40 – 7 and was later inducted into the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame. In Donna’s senior year they traveled to Alaska to defeat the University of Alaska and the University of Fairbanks. Donna was named the MVP in her senior year and the Falcons won the Northeast- 10 tournament for the first time and Bentley’s history.
After graduating from college, Donna looked to continue her involvement in volleyball. Fran Vandemeer, a fellow Hall of Famer, trained Donna to become an official. Also tutored by Hall of Fame official Tony Aretakis, she officiated many high school girls’ volleyball games, SCC tournament games and state-level tournament games. After 32 years of officiating she plans to continue as an official for the Southern Board. Donna has also officiated boys’ volleyball for 24 years and serves on the CIAC boys’ volleyball committee.
Beyond officiating, Donna’s involvement includes being an instrumental member of the committee that created the Southern Board of Volleyball Officials. She also continues to assist with mentoring, training, and rating new officials. She has served the SCVBO as the training coordinator for five years and also volunteers to officiate the Connecticut Special Olympics volleyball matches.
Donna resides in Wallingford with her husband David and her children Deanna and Derek.
Janice’s volleyball career started at an earlier age than most females in Connecticut. As a young girl she started playing alongside her two older sisters, Marcia and Carrie, both of whom were on the Amity Class LL championship team in 2003 coached by Paul Thees.
Janice joined Amity’s varsity team a year later in 2004 as a middle blocker. During her freshman year, she got to play alongside one of her sisters which made the transition to high school an easy one and helped her continue the Amity winning tradition by making it to the Class LL State semifinals match that season. But only playing front row is a middle blocker was not what Ehorn had in mind for her tenure at Amity. She decided to join the Connecticut Jr Travel Club program her freshman year and developed as an all-around player which helped her play all the way around for her remaining three years at Amity.
In her sophomore year, despite being out for half of the season due to injury, Janice helped lead the Spartans to the Class LL State quarterfinals match. During the season, she was named all-area by the New Haven Register, Connecticut Post, Hartford Courant, first team all-SCC and first-team All-State, all honors which she also earned during her Junior and senior years. During her junior season at Amity, Ehorn set a school record of 370 kills. She ended her four-year Varsity career with a total of 1,108 kills. In her final season at Amity, Ehorn was named the 2007 SCC tournament MVP and the 2007 Connecticut Volleyball Gatorade Player of the Year.
While playing high school volleyball, Janice was part of the Connecticut Jrs Travel Club program for 4 years coach by Mike Brienza’s and during her junior season, the team went undefeated, they were the New England region Champions and they were also ranked number one in the region.
After High School, Janice attended Wingate University in North Carolina where she continued to be part of a winning tradition. During her for years at Wingate, under a head coach Shelton Collier, the Lady Bulldogs amassed a record of 130 – 7, winning the SAC conference tournament every season to advance to the Division II tournament where they visited the sweet sixteen twice and the elite eight once.
Currently, Janice is an insurance agent for The Milford Insurance Agency in Connecticut. The agency was originally started by her grandparents and is now owned by her parents. Janice is working to continue the tradition and help the local area with their insurance needs. But if she is not in the office, Janice can be found playing volleyball, both indoor and outdoor, or spending time with her family.
Erin Appleman has established herself as one of the most successful collegiate coaches in the country at the helm of the Yale women’s volleyball program.
In her 16 years at Yale, Appleman has 9 Ivy League championships, including a record-setting five straight titles from 2010 to 2014. During her time in New Haven, Appleman owns a .726 winning percentage with an overall record of 289 – 109 entering the 2019 season. She was named Ivy League Coach of the Year in 2018 and won AVCA East Regional Coach of the Year in 2004. Appleman became the first coach in Ivy League history to win an NCAA Tournament match – a feat she has accomplished twice (2004 and 2008). In addition, her teams have earned seven NCAA Tournament appearances, four 20- plus win seasons and finished in either 1st or 2nd place in each of the last 15 seasons.
Within the Ivy League, Appleman owns a 180-44 record– the winningest mark of any program in the conference over the last 16 years. From 2011-2014, the Bulldogs completed the winningest 4 year run of any Ivy League team with a conference record of 51 – 5, surpassing their previous best mark set in 2013. During the 2013 season, Yale won its 23rd straight league match – the longest streak in Ivy League women’s volleyball history– which stretched from November 12, 2011 to November 2nd, 2013.
Appleman’s contributions to the sport also include attracting some of the top programs in the nation to New Haven. In her time at Yale, the Bulldogs have hosted Penn State, USC, Stanford and Minnesota. Yale also competed inside the Pentagon in Washington, DC as part of the Service Academy Challenge in 2013.
Prior to Yale, Appleman spent 8 years as an assistant coach at Penn State. During her tenure, the Nittany Lions reached the NCAA Final Four five times (1993-94, 1997-99) and won 5 Big 10 championships. In addition, she served as an assistant coach for the USA Junior and Youth National Teams from 1994 – 95. Prior to Penn State Appleman served as an assistant coach at Cal State – Northridge and the University of San Diego.
Appleman is a 1990 graduate of San Diego State, where she served as well I while captain and was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player in 1989. Despite playing just 2 seasons for the Aztecs, she currently sits 4th on its university’s all- time list with 3,144 career assists. Before transferring to San Diego State, she competed for 2 years at United States International University. In addition, she was a member of the Asics Tiger volleyball club for 6 years and was selected as MVP at USA V Junior Nationals in 1985, when her team won the title.
Chaz Tomblin, Erin’s father, is the reason she has such a love for the game of volleyball. Chaz was himself an accomplished player during his youth. He coached his daughter for 2 years in club volleyball and he has framed the way she continues to teach the game of volleyball. Appleman and her husband, Christian, have 2 children, Justin and Emma, and live in Guilford.
As a result of the 1984 Olympics USA men’s success, Jim’s interest in the sport went from recreational to a more serious focus. He began to play and learn more about the indoor game in the winter, while in the summer playing grass and beach tournaments becoming an avid fan of the AVP.
Jim’s coaching career spans more than 20 years at the high school, club and college levels. In 1995, he attended Volleyball’s 100th Anniversary celebration at Springfield, MA in conjunction with the NCAA Men’s Final Four. He was a member of USAV achieving coaching certifications CAP-1 in 1997 at Massachusetts and CAP-II at the USOTC at Colorado Springs in 1999. He was also a member of the AVCA and attended several NCAA Final Fours and coaches’ conventions.
His first coaching opportunity came in 1994 at Crosby High School in Waterbury. After a few years of hard work, the program began to grow and improve. In 1998, he guided his team to the school’s first-ever postseason tournament. As a member of the Naugatuck Valley League Jim proposed, organized, and hosted the first-ever postseason Conference tournament that continues today. In his last season, he led the 2001 Lady Bulldogs to their best record and the school second postseason appearance.
Jim’s USAV Junior Club coaching began with Connecticut Jrs during the 1994-95 winter season where he coached boys for two seasons. He’s only coach boys one other time and that was the Cheshire Rams in the spring of 2002. For the 1996-97 season, Jim transitioned to the girls’ local program. By the winter of 2003, he moved to the travel program as a coach and director. Under his tutelage, the program transitioned from primarily Regional to National with schedules beyond New England and much success for its national teams. In 2006, Jim’s 18U travel team won the New England region championships. His 2008 16U national team was his most memorable. They finished top five in a handful of events and 3rd at East Coast Championships in Pittsburgh. He also won the New England national bid to USAV Junior national championships in Dallas, TX, the first 16-under team from Connecticut to do so. Jim also coached other teams that went to USAV Junior and AAU Nationals. He has coached numerous summer camps and countless private lessons.
In August 2005, Jim joined the staff of the Yale Women’s Volleyball team as an assistant coach for six seasons. He assisted in practice, scouting, travel, and spring training for the Lady Bulldogs. His most memorable season was again, 2008, as the women who came in with him as freshman helped lead the program to an Ivy League Championship and an NCAA first-round victory over Ohio at host Penn State, the first Ivy school to ever accomplish the feat in volleyball.
Jim began officiating in the fall of 2003 where his experience as a player and Coach helped him excel quickly. While at Yale, he officiated boys in the spring and eventually back to the girls in the fall of 2011. In the summer of 2014, Jim was asked to take over as state rules interpreter where he continues in that role. He is a member of the state official’s board and is a consultant to the CIAC girls’ volleyball committee.
As of late, Jim primarily officiates the girls and boys high school Seasons. He is grateful for all his experiences as a coach, official, and as a player.
Curt Burns graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 1975 where he earned three Varsity letters in track and field. He competed in the pole vault and high jump and also took honors at the NCAA level. After college, Curt became involved in playing competitive volleyball through the USVBA, now USA Volleyball, on Northeast men’s club teams. After attending several AVP tournaments, he also became an avid beach doubles player. Curt founded the New London Beach Volleyball at Ocean Beach Park. He played beach doubles while also directing men’s, women’s, co-ed and Youth Tournament Championship events for 10 years at the beach.
He began his coaching career at the University of Hartford for the men’s club team, competing in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. This also included playing NCAA teams. Shortly thereafter, when the Avon High School girls’ varsity position opened up in 1989, Curt became just the second coach in their 47 year history. He succeeded 2011 Hall of Fame inductee and founding member, Barbara Startup.
While at Avon, Curt has earned 406 career wins, 8 conference championships and 5 CIAC State semifinal births. His teams have gained 23 state tournament berths in a row. Curt has mentored 80 all-conference players and 20 All State selections. He was named CHSCA girls’ volleyball outstanding coach in 2009 and chosen as a finalist for NHSCA volleyball Coach of the Year in 2012 in 2016.
He co-founded, directed and coached the first Club volleyball program for boys in Connecticut in 1992. That club won New England and East Coast titles and competed successfully at Junior Nationals as well. Since 2004, Curt has coached the Newington High School boys program, amassing 268 wins, six CIAC championships, 8 state finals and 9 CCC Conference titles. Curt has coach 29 All State players and two CHSCA players of the year. He was also named CHSCA boys volleyball outstanding coach in 2014.
As a certified volleyball referee for over 25 years, Curt has officiated USVBA tournaments and worked in NCAA Division I, II and III matches as a member of the Professional Association of Volleyball Officials.
Curt is currently retired from full-time engineering employment for 33 years in the town of West Hartford, CT. He has just completed his 31st season as head coach of girls’ volleyball at Avon High School and will enter into his 17th season as head coach of boys’ volleyball at Newington High School in the spring of 2020.
Sage Esposito played volleyball at Foran High School Volleyball from 2007-2010. She was a setter and a 4 year starter. She captained the Foran team her junior and senior year. Her accolades include All-State Team selection in 2010 and 2009 as well as a second team selection in 2008. The New Haven Register awarded Sage an All-Area selection in 2010, 2009 and 2008. Sage earned a 2010 Connecticut Post All-Star award and New Haven Register Volleyball Most Valuable player designation. The Register also named Page Female Athlete of the Year for 2010-2011. She was chosen by area coaches to play in the Senior All Star Volleyball game her senior year. Sage also earned All-SCC division honors in 2010, 2009 and 2008.
Sage currently holds 2 school records in assists (1992) and assists for a single match (48). She was also a member of the Foran High School softball team from 2008-2011 where she was a 4 year varsity team member, a 3 year starter at second base and a captain in 2011. She earned All-State 2nd team and All – Area honors from the New Haven Register in 2011. Sage batted an amazing .541 her senior year for the 2011 Class M State Champions and #1 Ranked Team in the state.
She went on play volleyball for the University of Connecticut from 2011-2014 where she was a defensive specialist 2011-2013, and switched to setter in the 6-2 offense her senior year. She played in 342 sets, 106 matches, compiled 592 assists, 68 aces, 620 digs. Sage earned Big East All-Academic Team honors for the 2011-2012 school year. She also sang with the A Capella group “Rubyfruit”at UCONN.
She graduated in 2015 with a BS degree in Communications and went on to the University of Michigan to earn a MS degree in Human Computer Interaction. She is currently working at ESPN in New York City.
Sage will be married to Sergio Campbell in December 2018.
Lauren Holt had an “inauspicious” start to her volleyball career. As a freshman in high school she tried out for Granby High School’s inaugural season. She was primarily in as a middle blocker and was set a few times on the attack line. She joined the Husky Volleyball Club in the off season of her sophomore year and began to develop what would become outstanding and award earning volleyball skills.
Lauren was recruited by several colleges, but after her visit to Springfield College, she felt her other choices could not compare to what Springfield had to offer its student-athletes. From the family-like team feeling and coaching staff to the welcoming staff and campus, Lauren knew she had found a home. While at Springfield, Lauren was able to pursue both of her passions, being a collegiate volleyball player and getting an education in athletic training.
She ended her career as a four time All-American, two-time national statistical champion for most blocks-per-set in a season, NCAA Post-Graduate scholarship winner, and a nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year. She compiled several NEWMAC conference Athlete of the Year A wards and earned the Springfield College Dearing Pride Award as well as being named the Outstanding Team Sport Athlete for all four years of her career at the college.
But, what was most important to her was making life-long friendships, memories of traveling to Texas and Colorado with the team, and the accomplishment of being a successful student athlete. Now Lauren is pursuing her second passion of athletic training which allows her to help other student athletes stay healthy and pursue their college dreams.
Richard attended the University of Oregon, earning a BS in Biology and MS in Physical Education along with a teaching certificate in Biology. While at Oregon he was captain of the water polo team. In 1975 he began his teaching career in Petersburg, Alaska. At first coaching swimming for six years then coached volleyball for five years taking the Vikings to the first ever Alaska 3A State Championship Tournament.
After two years as the Assistant Volleyball Coach at the University of Alaska Anchorage (ranked in the national top 25), Richard was hired at Western Connecticut State University in late August in 1988. Upon arriving in Danbury the entire history Of WCSU volleyball was one page of yellow legal pad paper with about 10 names and telephone numbers. That year WC—SU placed second in the Independent Athletic Conference, then placed first for the next four years before becoming an independent until joining the Little East Conference in 1997 placing second in the LEC in 1997 & 1998.
Western began a string of 49 straight conference wins from 1998-2004 including six straight LEC Titles and five straight Tournament Championships, earning Jive straight NCAA tournament appearances, advancing to the second round three times. During his tenure at Western he coached 4 NCAA All Region players and many IAC All Conference players and 28 LEC player honors with 9 major honor winners. He was Coach of the Year in the LEC 2000 & 2001.
Richard was active nationally as he was a long time member of the AVCA, serving on the AVCA Regional Top 10 Committee. He was also active regionally as Vice President then President of the New England Women’s Volleyball Association. Richard also played in the USVBA Nationals in 1987 and 1988, playing against a team of ex-Olympians in 1988. He played in the Danbury men’s league, the Senior Olympics, the Connecticut State Games and New England Masters, began the Danbury Juniors Program and ran outdoor doubles tournaments and indoor reverse coed tournaments for over 10 years.
While in Alaska he became a commercial fisherman as a salmon trawler. He still trawls commercially for salmon every summer.