Bethany Collins Irwin


Bethany attended Branford High School from 1980-84 and left a legacy that is remarkable. She was an academic and athletic standout excelling in volleyball, basketball and softball.  Though only a freshman, she found herself pressed into service on the varsity due to injuries to other players, and she helped Branford reach the state quarterfinals. Her sophomore year she became a starter and started to break school records.  During that season, 11th ranked Branford defeated #1 seed Foran High School in a major upset to win the CIAC Class M State Championship.  This was Branford’s first ever state title in a girls’ team sport. In her junior year Bethany participated in the US Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships. That year Branford won its first Housatonic League Championship and captured its second straight championship finishing with a perfect 21-0 season. Always a dominating force in the front row, Bethany showed her versatility by setting a school record for digs from the back row.  Her coach Toni Cartisano said of her “there have been tall volleyball players in the state before bury few have been as quick for their size and I’m not sure anyone tall has master every aspect of the game as she has.”  In her senior year Bethany was selected co-captain and with her poise and leadership she helped her younger teammates in a tough final stretch.  Branford captured its third state championship with a 3-0 sweep in the finals.  Bethany also collected numerous individual awards.  She was a three time All-State selection, three times Most Valuable Player, and a three time All-Housatonic League selection. Her stats and school records include most successful blocks (137); highest kink average (93%); most passes and highest average (1619/87%); most unreturned hits (632); most digs attempted (303 of 445/68%).  She also received Branford’s Sportsmanship, Leadership and Dedication award.

Bethany had a great basketball career.  She helped Branford to two 20-0 seasons and two consecutive CIAC Class L Championships (’83, ’84). She was an All-State selection in both her junior and senior  years and as a senior she was also chosen as a Converse All-American and a Parade All-American.

Sought after by no less than 200 schools, Bethany chose to attend Penn State University.  She also played basketball and earned a degree in Education.  Her athletic accomplishments continued.  She scored over 1,000 points (1,186), was top 10 rebounder (857) and atop 10 blocked shots (92).  After graduation, she taught fifth grade and coached girls’ basketball in Bellafonte, PA for three years.  She then went back to the  Penn St.  community and a new high school girls’ team; she has been there 14 years.

Bethany married Rob Irwin in ’95 and her family includes stepchildren Kate, Kristen, Robbie and their young offspring Parick and Kyla.  Bethany is a member of the New England, Branford and Connecticut Basketball Halls of Fame.


Tamu Cooper-Santos

Tamu (Cooper) Santos was born and raised in New Haven. She entered Hillhouse High School in 1989 and played volleyball for four years. Her senior year she was named co-captain of the team. Tamu was selected to be on the All-District team and received the Hillhouse Intimidator Award.  Also that year, Hillhouse qualified for the CIAC state tournament, but was eliminated in a 5 set match against Hand High School.

Tamu also participated in basketball, track and softball at Hillhouse. She received the New Haven Register Defensive player of the year award her senior year and was a Register Athlete of the Week. She also led the team to the semifinals in the Class L state championship.  Tamu was a member of the state championship Class LL track team her senior year competing in the high jump. She graduated with honors in 1993 and received a full athletic scholarship to Temple University. Tamu was captain of Temple’s team her junior and senior years. An All-American volleyball player, she ranked as high as number two in the nation in hitting efficiency her junior year. As a junior, she also tried out for the Olympic volleyball team making it to the final cut. During her senior year she led Temple to win their first Atlantic Ten Championship. She also led them to their first NCAA tournament appearance.

Upon graduation from Temple in 1998 with a B.A. in Speech, Language and Hearing, Tamu turned pro in volleyball and played all over Europe.  The tour competed in Germany, Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. While competing, Tamu pursued a certificationin Sign Language studies. Upon returning to the US she played a season of basketball for the Community College of Philadelphia. There she was selected Most Valuable Player of the Wattignies Volleyball Club in Lille, France.  She ranked in the Top five in hitting for the Professional “A” French League.  At the end of the season, she signed to return, but later was forced to forfeit and end her professional career due to a knee injury.  Tamu has coached at Bob Bertucci Volleyball Camps and clinics since 1996 for ages 5 to adult.  In 2004 she ran her own camp for Career High School girls’ volleyball team. Most recently, Tamu played in the EBA (Eastern Basketball Alliance) semi pro league for two seasons (2004-5).

In March 2007 Tamu was inducted into the HIllhouse High School Hall of Fame.

She has worked as a speech therapist for the past seven years and is currently pursuing a Masters level certification in the field.  In 2001 Tamu married Ngloa Santos. They have a son, Namumba, and a daughter, Nzinga.


Josie Weymann

Josie’s volleyball career begins at Darien High School in 1994. An excellent athlete, under the guidance of Coach Laurie LaRusso, she developed and improved her volleyball skills to become one of the top players in the state. Josie’s personal achievements are considerable. She was a four-year starter selected as team captain in both her junior and senior years. She also earned many league honors. Showing great promise early in her career, she was a FCIAC honorable mention as a freshman. She made first-team all-FCIAC in 1996, ‘97, and ’98. She was also the states most viable player in ‘96 and ‘98. Josie was on the Bridgeport Post All-Star team in 1996, ’97, and ‘98 and she was the team’s most valuable player in 1998.

Josie and her teammates also amassed an impressive record. Darien won the FCIAC championship from 1995- 1998. They were CIAC state champions in 1995, 96, and 98 and were ranked number one in Connecticut each of those years. In fact during the four years that Josie played at Darien, the team lost only one match.

Josie attended Duke University after graduation and continue to play volleyball. She was a four-year starter there playing defensive specialist/libero. Josie was selected all-ACC first-team in 2001 and second team in 2002. Also in 2002 she was chosen team captain and became a member of the 1000 Dig Club.

Josie graduated in 2002 and became Academic Support Center Supervisor at American School in Tokyo, Japan (2003-2004). She traveled Southeast Asia that summer and went to work at MD Sport. Currently Josie works for Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sarah Katinger


Sarah arrived at Bunnell High School in 1994. She was a dedicated basketball and softball player planning to play a sport in the fall to stay in shape. She decided to try volleyball. At tryouts the first test of the day was arm strength, and when Sarah threw the ball from the service line to the back wall of the gym, Coach Dave Jockle took notice. He not only picked her for the team, he put her on varsity.

Sarah took to this new sport, quickly developing into one of the top players in the state. She has earned honors not only from her high school and state, but she has also earned national recognition. Sarah holds the following Bunnell team records: 521 single-season and 1584 career kills; 174 single-season and 500 career aces; 288 single-season and 723 career digs. In 1994, she was named to the all-conference team and selected all-area by the Connecticut Post and the New Haven Register. Remember she was a freshman and had only played one season of volleyball. In fact Sarah was named all-conference and all-area four years in a row! In 1996 and 97 she was selected in the Connecticut Post and the New Haven Register as the Volleyball Player of the Year. She was also the New Haven Register Female Athlete of the Year in 1997.

Sarah also earned national recognition. She is listed in the National High School Sports Record Book (2006). She is ranked sixth and seventh for all-time kills in a match with 43 in 1996 and 41 in 1997. She is ranked fourth all-time for service aces in a career and she is ranked sixth all-time for service aces in a match (17 in 1997). With Sarah’s help Bunnell made it to two state finals and in 1997 they defeated Darien in the tournament, handing them their first loss in five years. Sarah was named to the first team all-state three years in a row, 1995, ‘96, and ‘97. She was a Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut in 1996 and 1997 and she was a Gatorade Player of the Year in New England in 1997.

After graduating from Bunnell, Sarah played volleyball at Providence College and continued her winning ways. She was a four-year starter at the outside hitter position. She was named to the Big East all-rookie team in 1998 and the All-Big East team in 1999 and 2001. She holds the all-time Providence College records for career kills, digs and attacks.

Lisa M. Barbaro


Lisa’s remarkable career began in 1993 at the Morgan School in Clinton. She was a three-sport athlete, playing volleyball, basketball and softball; she was outstanding in all three. During her four years there, she left an amazing legacy. Lisa was a four-year starter on the volleyball team and served as captain. In those years, her team amassed an 85-3 record, finished 22-0 in 1995 (an undefeated season for the first time in school history), won three conference championships and won the CIAC Class S State Championship four years in a row. Lisa’s contribution to her team’s success is evident in her numerous awards.  She was 2nd team All-Conference in 1994, 1st team All-Conference in ’95 and ’96. , All-Middlesex County in ’94, ’95, ’96, All-Area 1994, ’95, ’96 and 2nd team All-State in 1996.  As if this were not enough, Lisa was equally successful in her other two sports. She was captain of the basketball and softball teams as well, and she was selected to the All-Conference, All-Middlesex County, All-Area and All-State teams in BOTH of these sports. In her junior year, all three of her teams won state titles. This is believed to be a state record for the most consecutive state titles won in one year for a single high school girl’s athletic program. To cap off her career, Lisa was chosen the New Haven Register Connecticut Female Athlete of the Year in 1996, an honor she would receive again in 1997.

After graduating high school, Lisa attended Coker College in South Carolina and Southern Connecticut State University. She has continued to share her love of sports and competition by working at numerous volleyball clinics and camps, and through coaching. Lisa was head volleyball coach at Branford High School for two years, where she developed a more skilled, unified and successful program.  In 2004 she was named head women’s volleyball coach and softball coach at her alma mater, SCSU.  Her drive, dedication and disciplined coaching style have already helped to improve these programs.

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).

Melissa Roy

Missy’s volleyball career began in 1990 at Glastonbury High School.  She loved the game and with dedication and hard work became an outstanding player and team leader.  As a junior Missy received her team’s Coach’s award and was selected to the All-Conference team.  She was also an All-State second team selection.  In her senior year Missy was captain and the team’s Most Valuable Player.  She was again selected for All-Conference and All-State honors.  That year Glastonbury won the CIAC Class L State Championship and Missy was the tournament’s MVP.  She was also a Hartwell Award recipient.

After graduation Missy continued her volleyball career at Stetson University where she was a 4-year varsity starter.  She was team captain her senior year and team MVP.  She holds numerous records at Stetson, received the Melching Leadership Award, broke over 1000 kills and digs in a career and was named to the Academic All-Conference team for 3 years.  Even after graduating college Missy did not leave volleyball behind, she turned to coaching.  She began coaching in Florida and then returned to her alma mater Glastonbury High School where she coached the freshmen team for 3 years and has now taken over the varsity squad.

Sally Maher


Sally began playing volleyball at North Haven High School in 1978 for Coach Marge Dolan.  She had great enthusiasm and exceptional athletic ability and she worked hard to learn this new sport.  Her hard work paid off. Sally and her teammates won back to back state championships in 1979 and 1980.  As a junior she was selected to the All-Housatonic and All-State teams, and she repeated this accomplishment her senior year.  She also received numerous team awards.  Sally was also an outstanding basketball and softball player in high school.

After graduation Sally attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and she continued her volleyball career playing for Coach Elaine Sortino.  In 1984 her team won the ECAC Championship.  Sally was captain her junior and senior years and was team MVP her senior year.  Sally decided to share her knowledge and talents by becoming a coach.  In 1988 she coached JV volleyball at North Haven.  The next year she took over the head coaching position at Lyman Hall which she held until 1999.  She has worked at several volleyball camps and she continues to play on the CT Fossil Team.  Sally is a physical education teacher at North Haven High School.

Patty Doolittle Giannattasio


Patty began her volleyball career in 1974 as a freshman at Foran High School, coached by Edna Fraser. It was the first season that volleyball was played in the Fall. During her four years at Foran, her team finished fourth, third, second and won the state tournament. She lettered during her sophomore, junior and senior years and also captained the team her senior year. She was selected MVP her junior and senior years. In 1978 Patty received the Foran Athletic Assoc. Award, the Connecticut Scholar Athlete award and the Keystone Scholar Athlete Award.  She received an athletic scholarship to the University of Rhode Island, where she captained the team her Junior and senior years. She graduated with distinction with a BA in psychology.

Patty has coached volleyball at Jonathon Law High School and Fitch High School.  She initiated the volleyball program at Mitchell College in ’93 and has also coached at the US Coast Guard Academy.

Eva Esposito


Eva started her volleyball career at Branford High School in her sophomore year. She earned a starting position the following year. In 1987 and ’88 she was selected to the All-Housatonic Volleyball Team and was selected as Branford’s MVP.  In 1988, the team was Class M runner-up and Eva garnered Class M All-State honors.  She led her team in kills, blocks and passing average. She was an honor roll student and was listed in the Who’s Who Among High School Students in 1989. She later attended the University of Hartford on a full basketball scholarship.

Eva presently teaches physical education at Eli Whitney Technical School and is head volleyball coach at East Haven High School.