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.


Toni M.Cartisano


Toni attended Southern Connecticut State College from 1967-71. After graduation she was hired by the Branford School System to teach physical education at Branford High School, and she also became the volleyball coach. Toni’s volleyball coaching career did not startout on  a very high note; that first year her team finished the season 0-14. The second year produced a more promising 10-5 record and, from that point on, there was not going back.  In her 20-year career, Toni has had only four losing seasons.

There have been many accomplishments in Toni’s career.  Her teams have qualified for the state tournament every year but one.  Branford appeared in five CIAC Class M State Finals, winning the championship three years in a row from ’81-’83 and finishing runner up in ’84 and ’88. In 1982, in addition to winning the state championship, her team completed an undefeated season and won the Housatonic League Championship. Toni was named CIAC State Volleyball Coach of the Year in 1984, and she has been nominated as National Coach of the Year twice. She has coached numerous all-league and all-state players many have gone on to play in college, and a few have become coaches themselves. Toni was active in the Connecticut Junior Olympics program. She coached the team that won the tournament and the right to represent Connecticut in the Junior Olympics in Chicago, Illinois. Toni served on the CIAC volleyball committee from 1983-’86.  She is one of the founding members of the Housatonic League and a founding member of the Connecticut Scholastic Women’s Volleyball Hall of Fame.

Toni retired from teaching this past June, but will continue to work with the young people at Branford High, supervising two clubs and producing the theatrical productions there.

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.

Krista Blomquist Hall


Krista started playing volleyball at a very young age. She was taught by her father Chet Blomquist who played collegiate volleyball at Springfield College. Her first organized team experience began in 1980 as a sophomore, when she tried out for the volleyball team at Branford High School. During her junior and senior seasons, the team, coached by Toni Cartisano, competed in the Class M state tournament and won the title both times.

Krista was voted all-league her junior and senior years and first team all-state her senior year. Upon graduation, Krista studied at the University of Connecticut where she played basketball. Krista continued volleyball after college when she began playing beach volleyball while living in south Florida. After moving to southern California in 1993, she played professionally on the Pro Bach Volleyball Tour.  In 1997 and 1998 Krista ranked 5th in the United States and in 1998 she was ranked 20th in the world.  She served as a player representative board member for USAV and was a member of the WPVA Board of Directors.  She is married to Stephen Hall and has a two-year old daughter, Kendra.