Hartford Courant: Notebook
Brianna found volleyball first at Chippens Hill Middle School in Bristol when she was only 13. Playing 3 years of volleyball in middle school gave her the courage to attend camps the summer before her freshman year in high school where she so badly just wanted to make the JV team. Her very first game ever on the high school court, was the first game of the season her freshman year as a starting setter for the Varsity team. She remained in that spot for the next 4 years.
During her reign at BEHS, Brianna was a three-time All-CCC South and two-time All-State Performer. Three out of her four high school years that were documented on Max Preps amassed 223 sets played, averaging 9 assists per set, 1997 total assists, 137 aces, 462 digs and 120 kills. BEHS took home a pair of CCC Tournament titles during her tenure and in 2012, Bristol Eastern High School won the Class L State Championship. It was this moment that made Brianna realize she wanted to play this sport in college. For the next three years, Brianna played volleyball at school in-season and played for Connecticut Juniors in the off-season.
Her collegiate career was even better. Brianna moved on to Post University, where she continued her volleyball career and her studies in Sport Management and Communication and Media Studies. Brianna accumulated a program record 4,753 assists, including 1,092 in her senior season. She tallied 1,314 assists as a freshman, 1,226 as a sophomore, and 1,121 as a junior. Despite being a setter, her defensive presence was also felt on the court where she had a career 1301 digs at Post. She earned two trips to the NCAA Division II East Region Tournament, was CACC and ECAC Rookie of the Year in 2015, then claimed DII CCA East Region Second Team as a sophomore. She was a First Team All-CACC selection in her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons, then was Second Team All-CACC as a senior.
Brianna sits in the CACC Tournament record books holding the 1st and 3rd spots for most assists ever recorded in a CACC tournament game: 67 total against Wilmington U on 11/20/15 and 59 against Georgian Court U 11/14/17. She also holds the 3rd place spot for most assists per CACC tournament at 144 in 2015. In regular season CACC play she holds the 4th place spot for assists per set in a season at 10.95 in 2016 and 8th place for career assists in a season at 1,314 in 2015.
She was nominated in 2019 for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year award.
She just wasn’t ready to stop after her four years of college volleyball, so she jumped at the opportunity to attend the University of Essex in Colchester, England to be able to continue playing volleyball while earning her Master’s Degree in Management. Her run at a professional career was cut short by COVID and she now resides in Oklahoma working for a baseball organization, the Tulsa Drillers, a double A affiliate of the LA Dodgers.
With her busy work schedule, she is currently working on a 2nd master’s degree and she still makes time to help kids learn the sport of volleyball and continues to play. Coaching is likely in her near future!
Devon played Libero for the Farmington High School volleyball team for four seasons, winning the Class L State Championship in 2014. She also played for the Husky Volleyball Club and won the 18’s NERVA Championship in 2015.
As a multi-sport athlete, she also won two Class L State Championships in the Javelin throw and threw for a 4th Place finish at the New England Open in 2015. She also holds the current Farmington HS School record in the event. Following high school, Devon walked on to the Boston College Varsity volleyball team which competes in the Power-5 conference. Starting as the Libero by the end of her Freshman year, Devon also achieved ACC-academic honors each season on the team. During her junior and senior years, she played for the Boston College Women’s Club Volleyball team, earning 9th and 3rd place finishes at NCVF Nationals.
In reflecting on my high school volleyball career, I can recognize the truly exceptional group of athletes we had on our team at Farmington High School. Especially during my junior and senior years, when every player on the court exhibited an unstoppable desire to compete, challenge themselves, each other and win. Particularly my classmates and fellow captains, Sophie Borg, Abby Arena and Sarah Lipinski who each played a huge role in leading our team to a State Championship. They pushed through every sprint, timed mile, practice, point and match, inspiring all others in the gym. I am fortunate to call them lifelong friends, along with so many others I have met through this sport, whether teammates, coaches, or opponents.
Additionally, I could never have accomplished as much in this sport if it was not for the support I received from Coach Arena along the way. Under her direction we learned to believe and reach beyond our limits, allow our failures to fuel our victories, and most of all trust one another. These lessons she instilled in high school have rung true in the years since, as I am sure they have played a part in my collegiate and professional success as well as that of my teammates.
Outside of athletics, Devon is pursuing a career in law. She is set to graduate from the UConn School of Law and sits for the Connecticut bar exam this Winter.
My only experience as a volleyball coach was in the early 1970s when I started a boys’ volleyball program at Spring Grove High School in Pennsylvania. I kept 11 players on the team so that I could play. We practiced every morning at 6:30 A.M. I still remember girls’ volleyball from the 1950’s when each player was permitted two hits, which meant a player could bump it to herself and then set another player. Thankfully that soon gave way to power volleyball, and look at the game today; incredibly popular at all levels and throughout the world. I am recently retired from the CIAC where I was given the opportunity to oversee volleyball. My wife and I have the good fortune of raising our granddaughter, who was a pretty good ski racer-until she found volleyball. She played volleyball at Kennedy Middle School and eventually transferred to St. Paul Catholic High School. Because of the beauty of the game itself as well as my granddaughter Olivia’s participation, I grew to love the game, at all levels. I tried throughout my years at the CIAC to keep volleyball moving forward and upward, including the maintenance of a good relationship with club volleyball, something that hopefully benefitted both entities. I hope that in some small way that I gave back something positive to volleyball, because it gave me wonderful professional and personal opportunities and memories. I am extremely grateful for the honor.
Sarah graduated from RHAM high school in 2014. Playing under Tim Guernsey in both volleyball and basketball where she was a 4-year starter for both teams.
In the four years that Sarah played volleyball at RHAM HS, she contributed to an impressive team overall record of 84-8 and Central Connecticut Conference record of 56-0. As a freshman she won her first CIAC Class M State Championship in 2010 and then as a senior winning a CIAC Class L State Championship 2013. She finished her high school career with 1,271 kills and 2,079 points, respectively.
In addition to her team successes, Sarah was also acknowledged with the following personal accolades:
- 1st Team CCC East – 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013
- 1st Team All-Hartford Courant – 2010, 2011 & 2012
- 2nd Team All-State – 2011
- 1st Team All-State – 2012 & 2013
- Max Preps Player of the Week – 2012
- Under Armour Watch List – 2013
- CHSCA Player of the Year – 2013
- Hartford Courant Player of the Year – 2013
- Class L State Final MVP – 2013
- Senior All Star Blue – 2013
- Gatorade Player of the Year – 2013
- All Academic 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013
- Team Most Improved Player – 2010
- Team Most Valuable Player – 2011 & 2013
A gifted two sport athlete, Sarah attended Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia on a full basketball scholarship. Helping the team to the Atlantic 10 championship game in 2018. She was also twice named the Philly Big 5 Female Scholar Athlete, was the MVP of the 2017/2018 Hawk Classic, and a member of the 2017/2018 Atlantic 10 Conference All-Academic team. At Saint Joseph’s, she is ranked second all-time in free throw percentage.
Sarah graduated from Saint Joseph’s in 2017 with a BS in both Finance and Accounting where she was named a Sutula Scholar by the accounting department. As a fifth-year senior she earned an MBA in Business Intelligence and Analytics. After graduation Sarah worked for two years in public accounting earning her CPA during that time. She now works for a private equity firm based in Philadelphia.
A lifelong resident of Oakville, Sue Bavone graduated from Watertown High School where she played volleyball, softball and basketball until a back injury ended her playing career in her junior year. After graduation, she went on to CCSU, where she earned a BA in Communications. She began her coaching career at her alma mater in 1985, where she coached for 8 seasons (53-92).
After leaving WHS in 1992, Sue decided to pursue a degree in Special Education so she went back to CCSU part-time while working at the Wheeler Clinic’s Northwest Village School as an Instructional Assistant for special needs students.
In 1994, Sue was named the head Girls’ Volleyball Cheshire High School, where she continues to coach today. Now, in her 27th season, Sue has amassed an impressive 540-98 record at CHS. Her teams have been among the best in the Southern CT Conference and in the state having won 18 Division Titles, and 14 SCC conference titles. (Sue’s teams have reached the finals of the SCC tournament an incredible 19 times in 27 seasons). She has also brought teams to 8 Class LL State Finals, winning 4 State Championships (‘97, ‘98, ‘07, ‘13).
For her efforts with the girls, she has been named a Coach of the Year by; The New Haven Register (‘98,’07, ’12, ’13, ’14, ‘18) the CT High School Coach of the Year (2003), the Franciscan Life Center Coach of the Year (1999), the Olympia Club Coach of the Year (2001) and The Ct Sports Writers Association (2013), Southern Ct Conference Coach of the Year (2015, 2018), and the Water/Oak Circle of Sports Coach of the Year (2018).
In 1996, Sue earned a BA in Special Education from CCSU and was hired as a Special Education Teacher at Cheshire High. Sue also earned a Master’s of Learning Degree from Sacred Heart University in 2000. She is currently a SPED Teacher at Cheshire High.
Sue’s greatest pleasure is seeing the positive impact that her programs have had on her players after they have graduated from high school. Her coaching staff for both teams has always been composed of former players and the sheer number that come back to help with camps, clinics or just come to visit, overwhelms her with a great sense of pride and satisfaction and makes all the years of hard work so worth it. Her coaching philosophy is simple…”to instill in my players a love for the game of volleyball, while providing them with a positive atmosphere in which to grow as a player and as a person.” Sue has done that countless times over.
Sue is a member of:
- The New England Regional Volleyball Association (NERVA)
- The Yankee Volleyball Association
- The CT High School Coaches Association (CHSCA)
- The CT Junior Olympic Volleyball Association (CJVBA)
- The American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA)
- The Massachusetts High School Volleyball Coaches Association (MVCA)
In the fall of 2002, Tim Guernsey was approached to coach volleyball, a sport that RHAM added because of Title IX with the addition of football. In his first season as coach, RHAM would go 0-18. Every single contest was played on the road do to the gymnasium not having a regulation volleyball court. In Tim’s first 5 seasons from 2002-2006 RHAM was 57-38. During the 2006 school year, under the guidance and mentorship of Coventry High School Hall of Fame Coach Matt Hurlock, Tim would make a dramatic change to RHAM’s defensive philosophy: The introduction of the Rover defense. That Fall, the 2007 season, RHAM would win the Class M State Title. Since the 2007 season, RHAM has gone 311-17. Tim has led RHAM to 13 state semi-final games in a row, advancing to the state finals 10 times, winning State Championships in Class M (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010), a stretch that included the longest win streak in school history at 57 matches, and Class L State Championships (2013, 2016, 2017). During his tenure, RHAM has had four undefeated seasons (2008, 2009, 2017, 2020), four CT Gatorade Players of the Year (2009, 2013, 2016, 2017) and 15 undefeated seasons in league play. The CT High School Coaches Association selected Tim in 2015 as the CHSCA Volleyball Coach of the Year. In 2017, Tim spoke at the Glazier Volleyball Clinics in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There he presented on three different topics: Building a Program from the Ground Up; Man-Up (Rover) Defense; Creating a Culture of Mental Toughness. RHAM finished number 1 in the CT Coaches poll rankings in 2009, 2013, 2016, and 2017. In 2019, he was a finalist for National High School Athletic Coaches Association Volleyball Coach of the Year. Heading into the 2021 season, Tim’s 20th season coaching volleyball his record at RHAM is 368-55.
Hired at RHAM in the fall of 2001 to teach Physical Education and Health after graduating from Central Connecticut State University, Tim would begin his coaching career in baseball. Head Baseball Coach Paul Steiner asked Tim to be his assistant coach for baseball in the spring of 2002 since Tim had pitched collegiately at CCSU. As an assistant coach during the spring of 2002, RHAM won a league championship. The first league championship since 1993. Together they would guide RHAM to five league championships (2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013) and the school’s first Class L State Championship in baseball in 2004. As an assistant, he helped coach the CT Gatorade Player of the Year in 2006. In 2012, Tim was selected as the CHSCA Assistant Coach of the Year. Tim stepped down after the 2013 season to get involved in his town’s local little league. Tim had the privilege of winning a Little League District Championship in 2018 with his son.
Tim coached three sports in three different seasons for 6 years at RHAM. In his 6 years as head coach, the girls’ basketball team qualified for the state tournament 5 times and competed in 2 state semi-final games in 2010 and 2012. He coached the CT Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012. His basketball coaching record at RHAM was 89-49. He was a member of the senior all-star game coaching staff in 2012. Tim stepped down to get involved with Franklin Basketball. He coached Franklin Elementary School, a (K-8) school to two SEMAC Championship game appearances in 3 years winning the SEMAC Championship in 2019.
Paula began officiating Girl’s Federation Volleyball in 1981, training with Barbara Startup at Avon High School. As a non-player, she worked diligently to learn the intricacies of the game and quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the top officials on the board having now refereed over 30 State Tournament Quarter, Semi, and Final matches.
Collegiate officiating was added to her list of accomplishments in the late 80’s as she mastered the differences between the NFHS and NCAA rulebooks. After receiving her State Rating she began traveling throughout CT and MA to officiate assignments for Division 1, II, and III college matches.
When the sport caught fire and the boys began playing, she was among a few referees who volunteered to officiate as originally the schools had no budget to pay for officials. She continued these efforts for several years until the CIAC sanctioned the sport around 1995 and remains actively involved officiating the Boys Season to this date.
In the 1990’s she also began volunteering to officiate at the Special Olympic for an event held in New Haven, CT and continued servicing the unified games until 2018 when officials were no longer required.
She continued to challenge herself by adding yet a third set of rules to keep her mind sharp when she entered the USAV officiating ranks in the mid 1990’s. She worked hard at honing her skills by attending many clinics, asking questions and receiving pertinent information and mentoring from higher ranking officials. Paula also began to take her expertise outside of New England in the late 1990’s as she officiated Regional Juniors competitions, many by invitation, in Reno, Las Vegas, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. In 2010-11 she was honored to be recommended to officiate the Orlando National AAU Championships, in Orlando, FL which she continues to participate in until the present time.
Perfecting one’s craft and remaining abreast of the ongoing changes which have occurred over the past 40 years in the sport of Volleyball requires consistent dedication to improving one’s skills. Paula’s level of commitment to be the best possible official she can be is witnessed by her ongoing presence at clinics- at times traveling the country at her own expense to attend these sessions. Her participation has included: line judge and scoring certification training in New Haven, CT with subsequent yearly clinics to retain her certification. NCAA, NIT, and USAV Junior National Training sessions in Syracuse and Albany, NY as well as at Rutgers University in NJ and NCAA VB skills training at several PAVO camps outside the Northeast.
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.