Joanne Conte


Joanne’s involvement with volleyball began in 1981 at Maloney High School. She palyed four years in one of the premier programs in the state, coached by Hall of Famer Cindy Opalski. Not only did she learn how to better her skills and playing ability but she also learned the intricacies of the game that would server well as a coach. She showed herself to be someone who could lead as evidenced by her selection as captain. A versatile athlete, Joanne played tennis for four years. She was captain and received the Dan Sullivan Scholarship Award her senior year.

After graduation in 1984, Joanne attended CCSU as an Education major. In the Fall of ’85, she became assistant coach of the Lyman Hall girls’ volleyball team. With that one year coaching experience and start her junior year at Central, Joanne applied for the head coaching position at her alma mater. Maloney’s legendary AD Norb Fahey saw something in young Joanne and hired her for the job; and that rest is, as they say, history. She would remain there for 11 seasons, accruing an impressive 201-33 record, continuing the winning tradition establish by her predecessors. During her tenure as coach, Maloney consistently qualified for post season play, winning 8 CCC South league titles and taking 5 trips to the finals of the CIAC Class L State Championships. In 1989 and 1994, Maloney finished as runner-up and they won the state titles in ’87, ’88 and ’92. Joanne has had many of her players recognized for their playing. They have been selected to receive numerous all-league and all-state honors. Many of her players have gone on to play in college.  Joanne has been honored for her outstanding achievement in coaching as well. She was selected Connecticut High School Coaches Assoc. Volleyball Coach of the Year in 1995. In 1996 she received that National High School Coaches Assoc .District 1 Volleyball Coach of the Year and she was one of eight finalists for the NHCA coach of the year.

Joanne has excelled in her teaching career as well as her coaching career. She received the Meriden Exemplary Project Achievement Award in 2001; Meriden Project Excel’s Influential Teacher Recognition (1998-05); 1998 Nomination for “Who’s Who Among  America’s Teachers.”  In 2008 Joanne was hired as the Supervisor of Language Art (6-12) for the Meriden Public School System.

Joanne said she was most influenced by her grandmother, Freida Burhardt. A strong woman who encouraged Joanne to strive for excellence, a trait she in turn passed on to the young women she has coached.

Paula Astramowicz Smalac

Paula attended Platt High School in Meriden from 1975-79 during the infancy of Title IX and the growth of women’s athletics. A versatile athlete, she played volleyball, basketball and softball.  When Paula entered Platt as a freshman, volleyball had only been a varsity sport for three years.  The team finished 6-8 that year, but just three year later it would finish 15-2 and be runner-up in the CIAC Class M State finals.  Paula was a big part of that success.  A dedicated and talented athlete, she worked to develop and improve. She was a four-year varsity starter in volleyball, earning four letters and serving as co-captain her senior year. She was also an All-League team selection her sophomore, junior and senior years (there were not All-State teams in the 70’s).   Paula did not just excel in volleyball; she was a four-year varsity starter in basketball and softball as well.  She earned letters in each of these sports for four years. She has the distinction of being the first athlete at Platt to earn twelve varsity letters. Paula was also captain of the basketball and softball teams and was an All-League selection for both.

Paula received a volleyball scholarship to the University of Connecticut, no small feat since scholarships for women were rare in 1979.  She played there for three years and earned three more varsity letters. Since graduating college, Paula has continued her involvement with volleyball, playing on USVBA teams, beach doubles, and coaching.  Paula started coaching at Middletown High School in 1984, but left after one season to return to Platt to replace her former coach, Denise Amiot.  She continued to keep the winning tradition alive. In her four years there, Platt won three CIAC Class M State Championships (1985, ’86 and ’88) and was runner up in 1987.

Today Paula resides in Cheshire with her husband Michael and her two children, Brendan (11) and Lindsay (8).

Karen B. Zealor

Karen’s involvement with volleyball began in 1974 at Maloney High School in Meriden.  Under the watchful eye of Coach Sandy Piantek, she and her teammates won 3 state championships, were runners up once, and were undefeated during the regular season 4 years in a row. Karen attended the University of Connecticut and as a freshman walk-on, she not only got herself a starting varsity position, she also got a scholarship.

Karen began officiating in 1981.  With her knowledge of the game and confident demeanor she was always in demand.  During the 15 years of her career she has officiated countless high school and college games statewide.  Karen has also been selected to referee at the Nutmeg Games, the Connecticut Special Olympics World Games.  She is a member of the Connecticut Board of Volleyball Officials and has served as both secretary and vice president.  Karen has also shared her expertise by serving on the committee to train and evaluate officials.

Today Karen lives in Wallingford with her 2 children Zachary and Rachel.

Bonnie Jean Kenny


(no high school data available)

Bonnie moved on to the University of Tennessee in 1981 where she captained the Lady Vol’s nationally ranked volleyball team. That team enjoyed much success with three appearances in the NCAA tournament, two Southeastern Conference titles and two SEC runner up titles. Bonnie herself was named to the Southeastern Conference all-tournament team in 1982.

Bonnie also excelled academically while at Tennessee.  She was named an Academic All-American in 1984 and remained on the Dean’s list for seven academic quarters.

Upon graduation from the University of Tennessee, bonnie was named head volleyball coach at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She continued there until 1993 when she took on the position as head coach at the University of Massachusetts where she continues to coach at present.

Form 1980 until the present time, Bonnie has worked as instructor, clinician and director for numerous volleyball camps.

She is a content contributor in both the AVCA Handbook and Championship Volleyball Drills Vol I & II.

Judy Sochin

Judy Sochin is a 1971 graduate of Maloney High School. She was co captain of the Volleyball Hall of Fame coach Sandi Piantek’s first state championship volleyball team.

Judy began working voluntarily, in the Maloney athletic department in high school and has continued her association in various capacities for over 45 years. Following her graduation from Maloney, Judy attended UConn, where she played volleyball for two years on the club team, prior to its establishment as a varsity sport.

Judy received her undergraduate degree in speech /language pathology in 1975, and later received a Master’s Degree and sixth year certificate in communication disorders/speech pathology from SCSU. She was a speech pathologist in the one area school system for one year in return to Meriden where she continued as a speech/language pathologist for 14 years and several of the district’s schools, until she retired in 2012.

Judy also coached field hockey for Maloney for 13 years. She has been a member of the Hall of Fame committee since this is inception in 2003, serving as chairperson for four years, and was a member of the ninth class of Maloney Hall of Fame inductees receiving her honor in April 2014. Judy is affiliation with the volleyball Hall of Fame began with the inaugural class when she and her co captain presented Sandi Piantek with her award. She was asked to take photographs for the first group of inductees and has photographed every class of inductees since.

Leah Hettrick


Leah Hettrick graduated from Maloney High School in Meriden in 2002. In her senior year her team was undefeated state champions. Leah was named to the First Team All-State team and the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year.

After graduating, she played at Springfield College from 2003-07. In her first year she was named Rookie of the year. In her second year, she was named to the First Team All-Conference and was voted Springfield College ‘s Volleyball Player of the Year and most Outstanding Female Athlete for team sports.

As a junior, Leah was again voted most outstanding player and female athlete. She also set three school records: digs per match, digs per game in a season and digs per game for a career. She was also named to the All-New England Region Team.

As a senior, she set the final record for digs in a career. She was named to the All-Tournament Team in two of their largest tournaments. She was named not only to the All-New England second team, but to the American Volleyball Coaches Assoc. as honorable mention All-American.

Throughout her volleyball career at Springfield College, Leah was recognized more than 20 times as an out-standing collegiate player.



Cindy Opalski

Cindy attended Southern Connecticut State University where she played volleyball for Lou Albrecht and Joan Barbarich. A savvy outside hitter for the Owls, she played in two AIAW tournaments and was captain of the squad in her senior year.

In 1979 she took over the program at Maloney High School in Meriden. Stepping into such a well-known and successful program could’ve been a daunting task to some, but Cindy was more than up to it. During her seven year tenure from 1979 to 1985 she and her teams amassed an amazing record of 147 wins and 11 losses including four undefeated seasons (1979, 80, 81 and 84). Under Cindy’s guidance Maloney won the C IAC State Class L Championship (they played up in class) in 1979 and 84 and they were runner-up in 1985. In 1981 Maloney was part of the longest high school winning streak in the United States. Cindy also produced many outstanding players, among them all-staters Bonnie Kenny, Kim Sokel and Anne Marie Larese. There were also numerous all-league awards and league titles.

After leaving Maloney, Cindy worked with the US Volleyball Junior Olympic Program for five years coaching the Connecticut team at numerous national qualifiers. She coached and trained some of the top players to come out of Connecticut. Cindy is now in her 20th season as an intercollegiate head coach. In 1986 she was hired at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. In her four years there she led the team to a 96- 42 record and the school’s first-ever conference title in 1988. She was the AV CA coach of the year in the Atlantic region and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.

In 1990 Cindy arrived at Bucknell University and has transformed Bison volleyball into one of the top programs in the East. They were recognized as the most improved team in the nation by Volleyball Monthly in 1993; recorded the best record in school history in 1995 at 26-7; won the first-ever Patriot League automatic bid to the 1998 NCAA tournament; and in 2003 posted a school record 11 Patriot League wins en route to a second-place finish. Bucknell has won four of the last 11 Patriot League regular-season titles under a plastic Cindy. Cindy one of her 300th career match in 2004 and she has been named the Patriot League coach of the year three times: 1997, 2000 and 2003.