The Pilgrim girls’ volleyball team graduated five seniors from last year’s Division II playoff team, including the Warwick Beacon girls’ volleyball player of the year, Khalia Thao.
Yet, the Pats feel great about this upcoming season.
With a group of experienced contributors from last year’s team back and primed for more, plus new players from last year’s state runner-up junior varsity team, Pilgrim has a group in place that it hopes is ready for even more success.
“We’re really excited about this season,” said head coach Kelly Harrington. “We did well last year, made it to the playoffs. This year we have high expectations and are setting high standards in our practice.”
The team is comprised of six seniors and six juniors, giving it the feel of a decidedly veteran group.
Thus far, in the preseason, everything has gone smoothly, although Pilgrim won’t get its first real look at live competition until Friday, when it hosts Toll Gate and Vets in the Injury Fund at 4 p.m.
Harrington wants to see her team already in sharp form.
“Just to play the game at a higher level,” Harrington said. “We’re trying to execute some plays. We should be playing at 100 percent effort on every single play.”
Setting the pace for the Pats are senior captains Megan St. Jacques and Colleen Conti. St. Jacques is the team’s top offensive option in the middle, while Conti plays as the left-side hitter.
With their abilities – plus the growth of a few other players – the Pats shouldn’t struggle very much in off-setting the loss of last year’s seniors, including Thao.
“Khalia was a great all-around player, but I do feel like the girls are working hard and I don’t think you’ll see a big difference in our effort,” Harrington said.
Junior Nancy Alvarez is stepping into the primary setting role and has flourished so far, allowing Pilgrim to run a 5-1 set. She set part-time a year ago.
“We’re excited to have such a talented setter in Nancy to be able to run a successful offense,” Harrington said.
The Pats’ offensive options don’t stop with Conti and St. Jacques. Senior Alexa Annotti is back from last year and she’ll be a significant net presence as well. Other offensive-minded players are senior Tayla Ferreira, junior Meaghan Woodbury and junior Emma Thibodeau.
Harrington expects the offense to be a strength, more so than in years past.
“One of our themes this year is to attack,” Harrington said. “We want to improve our offense by playing aggressive in each rally.”
On the defensive end, Pilgrim has senior Deveny Dionne – who saw some varsity time toward the end of last year – as well as senior Olivia Marcello, junior Jontu Nguon and junior Emily Sayles.
Junior Casey White is also back with the team after playing her freshman year and then taking last season off.
“We have a lot of talent and potential in all positions,” Harrington said.
All 12 players can provide something for Pilgrim, giving Harrington a group that she is extremely high on. With options all over the court – and high-end options – the Pats are thinking big.
They’ll also have a little time to fine-tune everything before the matches start to count. After Friday’s Injury Fund matches, Pilgrim will be off for over a week until it opens the regular season at Westerly on Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m.
Most other teams will start the week prior to that.
“We’re anxious to get started, but there’s an advantage to having an extra week to work on lineups in practice,” Harrington said.
Pilgrim will try to use it to its advantage. Then, it will be off and running.
The Pats are excited.
“We have some talented players that can have success for us,” Harrington said.