Susan Holcombe

Susan Holcombe played at the Gilbert School in Winsted from 1983 to 1986 and was a three year varsity starter. She played middle hitter for coach Mary Ellen Vaccari, a CT Women’s Volleyball Hall of Fame member.

In her sophomore year, Susan’s team was the Berkshire League Champions. In her junior year, they successfully defended their League Championship and Susan was named to the 1st Team All-League, and was Honorable Mention for the 1st Team All-State.

It was Susan’s senior year however that was the most memorable year. Her team repeated to become three time Berkshire League champions, and she was again named to the 1st Team All-League. Then they also won the Class S State Championship and Susan was named to the 1st Team All-State as well as being awarded her team’s MVP Award.

Susan went on to play at Clarion University of Pennsylvania for Coach Cindy Opalski, who is also a CT Women’s Volleyball Hall of Fame Member. From 1992 through 1994, Susan was a Division I assistant coach at Bucknell University.

Mary Ellen Vaccari


Mary Ellen attended Southern Connecticut State University, where she said, after being mentored by the outstanding staff and taught volleyball by Louise Albrecht, she was passionate about helping student-athletes achieve excellence.


Mary Ellen was hired in 1976 by her High School alma mater, The Gilbert School, and her contract was contingent upon her coaching three sports. She has coached almost continually since then, coaching six different boys’ and girls’ sports over the years.


The volleyball program was in its infancy when she took over and was 3-9 in her first season. Over the following 10 years, her teams qualified for the state tournament each year. Her teams also won 3 Northwest League titles and after joining the Berkshire League won additional titles there as well.


In 1979 and 1981, Gilbert played in the state tournament semifinals and in 1983 played in the tournament finals. At the beginning of the ‘86 season, Mary Ellen announced her retirement in order to care for her growing family. That year, Gilbert won its first day championship title. Her 10 year record as head coach was 150 -53. Three years later, she realized she could not stay away and returned as an assistant coach to then head Coach Cindy fixer, a former player of Maryellen’s. She worked in the programs the next 22 years and in 2000, when Gilbert one another state championship title, Maryellen’s two daughters were members of the team.


Over the years Mary Ellen also ran USVBA Junior Olympic volleyball programs, as well as summer volleyball leagues. She was a Woman’s Sports Foundation “Grants for Girls” recipient, and was the 1998 recipient of the Pathfinder Award from the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports.


When Mary Ellen graduated from Southern Connecticut State University, she said she was confident she could help young women improve their physical, mental, and emotional well-being through competition. She was absolutely right.

The Register Citizen:  Coach Vaccari inducted into Hall of Fame


Candy Perez


Sports opportunities for girls were limited when Candy was growing up in Torrington in the early 70’s. She played softball in the park and recreation Pigtail League and in intramural “six on six” basketball games. When volleyball was added as the first girls’ high school sport during her junior year, Candy was given the task of reading the rule book (how prophetic) and helping to organize the team. Torrington soon added girls’ teams in softball and basketball to their athletic program. Candy was a three-sport athlete by her senior year.

After graduating from high school, Candy pursued a degree in Physical Education at SCSC, which, at the time was the premiere state college for women’s sports. It was during her sophomore year at Southern that Candy began officiating volleyball. She officiated in the New Haven area during her collegiate years both at the high school and college level. After graduating from Southern in ’79, Candy accepted a teaching and coaching position at Canton High School and volleyball coaching position at her alma mater, Torrington High.  She coached the Torrington varsity volleyball team for two years.  She they returned to officiating on a full time basis.

Candy officiated at many of the schools in the northwestern part of the state. She had the privilege of officiating at some of the top schools at the time- Bristol Eastern, Holy Cross, Gilbert, Avon, Lewis Mills, Cheshire, and Naugatuck- and credits many of the coaches at those schools with making her a better official. As a member of the Connecticut Board of Volleyball Officials, Candy became the chairperson of the Board from 1980-92 and then again in ’95. She continues to serve as the scheduling coordinator for 30 schools in the northwestern part of the state, a position she has held since 1980. She has been involved in training and rating new officials, writing the CBVO’s original officials’ manual, and along with Barbara Startup, worked over time with the CIAC in officials’ contract negotiations and the new CAIO.

In 2000, Candy was inducted into the Torrington High School Athletic Hall of Fame and in ’06 she was named Connecticut Athletic Director of the Year by the National Assoc. for Sport and Physical Education.  In 2007, she received the Merit Award from the CIAC Girls’ Basketball Committee and in 2008 she was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of fame.

Candy is currently the principal of Northwestern Regional Middle School in Winsted and serves as Selectman in Winsted.