East Hartford girls’ volleyball establishing a culture of success

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Sep. 20, 2013
The East Hartford High School girls' volleyball team went 12-8 last year. Photos by Corey AmEnde.
The East Hartford High School girls' volleyball team went 12-8 last year. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

Martin Martinez is only in his second year as head coach of the East Hartford High School girls' varsity volleyball team, but he’s already made a lasting change on the program. “When I hired an assistant coach, the first thing that we had to do was change the culture, and we were pretty successful with that, and then everything just kind of fell into place,” said Martinez.

Least season, in just his first year as head coach of the program, Martinez basically doubled the win total from the prior year and took the team somewhere they hadn’t been in over a decade – the state tournament.

“They came together as a family,” said Martinez. “They no longer saw themselves as losers. They saw themselves as competitors, and I think that was the biggest part of our success last year was just to tell them that they can actually do it.” His squad collected 12 wins last year and advanced to the second round of the tournament, thus setting the standards higher for this season.

“We’re trying to make it farther in the states, like third round or fourth round,” said senior captain Paula Alarcon.

“Now that the girls have had a taste of what tournament life is like, I expect them to do it every year now,” said Martinez. The team is off to a 3-2 start this year as of press time and includes a mix of experienced and non-experienced players. Three starters return from last year’s squad.

Martinez said key players for this year include Alarcon, fellow captain Ceili Peng, and Erin Buceivicius and Jaritza Gonzalez.
The team's strength, he said, is its offense. “What I’ve seen so far is we have a lot of talent on the floor and we can spread the offense evenly between five hitters and one setter, where last year we could only go up to one or two [hitters],” said Martinez.

An area that needs improvement is being able to stay mentally focused for the entire match. “We start really good and then we play the safe mode afterwards,” explained Alarcon.  “We have to push hard till the end so we can win the match.”

Martinez said he hopes to chip away at the stigma that the Hornets can’t compete with the top teams in the state. “I think it’s still hanging around that they can’t really beat these [top] teams and I think that’s the next obstacle we need to conquer," said Martinez.

The Hornets will face some of the top teams in the state later in their season when they host South Windsor on Monday, Sept. 30, at 6 p.m., Glastonbury on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 5 p.m., Northwest Catholic on Friday, Oct. 18, at 5 p.m. and travel to South Windsor on Thursday, Oct. 24, for a 6 p.m. match.

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