Despina Soennichsen

Ryan Soennichsen presents Despina Soennichsen

Despina Soennichsen (nee Morris) played volleyball for Amity High School and continued her career at UCONN, winning a Big East Championship in her sophomore year.  In her 4 years at Amity, the team had a regular season record of 70-2.  After losing in the Class L finals in Despina’s sophomore year, Amity went on to win the Class L title in her junior & senior years.

While at Amity, Despina was named All-SCC her junior and senior years.  In her senior year, Despina was also named to the New Haven Register All-Area team, and awarded All State honors after tallying 198 kills, 91.4 service percentage, and was a dominant middle blocker for a team that did not drop a single game until the state finals, where they knocked off Southington 3-1.

Despina credits much of her success to Cathy Simmons, who was her older brother’s high school coach at Amity at the time.  She believed in and encouraged Despina to play at a young age when no other younger kids were playing, and allowed Despina to participate in camps and programs meant for older players.

Additionally, Despina would like to thank Nell-Ann Lynch (nee Aloi), and Paul Thees.  Nell was the Amity JV coach at the time, and as a former UCONN player herself, gave Despina the confidence and encouragement to pursue her volleyball career at the collegiate  level.  As the head coach at Amity, Paul Thees oversaw the team to much of its success.

Directly from college, Despina was hired as the assistant coach at Quinnipiac University and also started coaching for Connecticut Juniors Volleyball.  She continued to play volleyball at the CT Sports Center in Woodbridge, where she met her future husband, Ryan. 

Despina was also a stand our basketball player at Amity, named captain her senior year.

Currently, Despina is a special education paraprofessional in the Wilton school system, and still coaches for Connecticut Juniors Volleyball when her schedule allows.

Lisa Cirmo Peterson

Lisa Cirmo Peterson

Lisa Cirmo Peterson

Lisa Cirmo Peterson played for Cheshire High School and was coached by Cynthia Hitchcock from 1976-1978. In 1978, Lisa was chosen captain of the team.

In 1976, Cheshire volleyball captured the Housatonic League championship and won the Connecticut Class M title.  In 1977, Cheshire once again won both the league and state championships and, in 1977, Lisa was selected as a member of the All-Housatonic league.

Lisa joined her team to tour Poland in July 1976 playing exhibition volleyball, with Debbie Chin coaching the team.  Cheshire was selected to participate in these “friendly” games in recognition of Coach Hitchcock’s legendary win-loss record.

Cynthia Hitchcock also coached Lisa for Cheshire High School’s track team where she was team captain in 1978 and 1979.  In 1978, Lisa was honored with the Kimberly and Sandra Hitchcock Memorial Award for Sportsmanship.

In 1979, Lisa entered the University of Missouri and was invited to try out for the Division 1 volleyball team as a walk-on player.

Lisa graduated from the University of Missouri and earned a graduate degree from                    St. Joseph University. Her 30-year professional career includes Food and Nutrition Editor for several magazines and a registered dietitian.

Paula McNearney

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.