The Panthers return many of their key contributors from last season’s tournament team.
For second-year Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls’ volleyball head coach Samantha Richner, there are a bevy of reasons this fall feels different than last.
“I do feel more confident and comfortable with the team,” she said. “To me, we feel like a family. I am very excited for this season and the team we have. I think we have great potential.”
In her first year at the helm last season, Richner guided the Panthers to a 12-9 record and their first tournament appearance since 2016. This season, they return many of their key contributors from that postseason run — headlined by junior captain and middle hitter Lily Welch (89 kills, 57 solo blocks, 13 block assists and five aces last season).
“Lily is a player that I could talk about all day,” Richner said. “She is so gifted and so determined and so dedicated to the sport and to the team.
“All of our front-row players are powerhouses with amazing ability. We plan to use that to our advantage for hitting as well as blocking.”
Senior setters Sophia Berardinelli (248 assists, 22 aces and 14 kills last season) and Caileen Hurley also captain the club.
“Sophia is an all-around athlete and an all-star player,” Richner said. “We are able to put Sophia anywhere on the court and feel confident in her ability.”
“Caileen is a solid player who we all rely on. She is going to leave a big whole in this program when she graduates.”
Junior middle hitter Abby Martin (94 kills and 40 solo blocks last season) is another returnee for the Panthers.
“I am looking forward to watching Abby continue to grow this season,” Richner said. “As a junior and returning varsity player, she is already assuming the role of a leader. Abby, obviously, shines when she is on the court, so it is exciting to have her for two more seasons.”
As for losses, Maya Faich undoubtedly left the biggest void. The Panthers’ team MVP and lone league all-star last season, Faich led the club with 244 digs from her post at libero. She didn’t go far though, as she’s assumed the reins of the freshmen team this fall.
“Taking her spot this year is junior Izzy Baker,” Richner explained. “Izzy is a new addition, but you would never know it. Izzy has been so impressive to us all, and she fits right in.”
W-H will be back on the court Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. when it hosts Duxbury.
“Our goal is to play hard and have a successful season, all while staying safe,” Richner said.