2020 Valley Sports Year in Review
Senior Cade Ensinger and the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team recorded a mark of 17-5 and were set to compete in the Division V State Tournament before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the playoffs. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Ava Boyles and the Valley Regional girls’ volleyball squad notched an 8-1 record this fall. Unfortunately, the Warriors were unable to play in Shorelines following an uptick of COVID cases at the high school. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Julie Hartt and the Warriors’ gymnastics team won the Shoreline Conference title during the winter season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Mark Goodale )
Sheryl Serviss and the Royals claimed the Deep River Horseshoe League’s playoff championship this summer. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
There were several success stories among various Valley sports in 2020. The Valley Regional boys’ basketball team reeled off 15-straight wins during the regular season, while the gymnastics team claimed a Shoreline Conference title in the winter. The Warriors’ boys’ soccer and girls’ volleyball squads were among the top clubs in the Shoreline Conference during the fall. Here’s a review of the highlights of the year in sports in Chester, Deep River, and Essex.
The Valley Regional boys’ basketball team showed how dominant it can be when firing on all cylinders. Valley girls’ hoops showed that it was a little ahead of schedule with a young club. Meanwhile, the Warriors’ squad gymnastics raised a championship banner.
The Valley Regional boys’ basketball team posted an overall record of 17-5 and competed in the Shoreline Conference Tournament. The Warriors would have also competed in the Division V State Tournament and even had a first-round bye as the No. 3 seed in the bracket, but the tournament was canceled prior to the second round due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Head Coach Kevin Woods’s squad lost three of its first four games on the year, but then rattled off a 15-game win streak. In Shorelines, the Warriors earned a 58-47 win against Haddam-Killingworth in the quarterfinals and then lost a 70-62 overtime decision against Morgan in the semis.
Valley was led by senior captains Cade Ensinger, Gavin Grabowski, Chris Sparaco, and Dylan Sparaco. Ensinger earned All-Shoreline Conference First Team and All-State First Team honors. He was also named to the New Haven Register All-Area Team and the Tap-Off Club All-Area Team. Grabowski garnered All-Shoreline Conference Second Team accolades.
The Valley Regional girls’ basketball team featured a young club with first-year Head Coach Jaimie Toto. The Warriors finished with an overall record of 8-15 in a season that included berths in the Shoreline Conference and the Class M State tournaments.
In Shorelines, Valley defeated Westbrook by the score of 57-28 in the play-in round, after which the Warriors dropped a 38-24 contest against Cromwell in the quarterfinals. In states, the Warriors took a 54-48 defeat to Woodland in the first round.
With no seniors on the roster, Valley was led by junior captains Alena Crosby and Addi Marchese. Crosby earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors, while Marchese received All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention.
The Valley Regional gymnastics squad was composed of sophomores and freshmen this year, but the Warriors were still able to claim the Shoreline Conference title. Valley turned in the highest score of 111.95 points at the Shoreline Conference Championship meet this year.
Sophomore captain Erin Ward led the Warriors, but was unable to compete at the Shoreline meet due to an injury. Raquel Farray, Kendra Cika, Julie Hartt, and Grace Jacaruso scored points for Valley at Shorelines. Isabella Giuliano, Leah Frantz, and Reagan Furgueson also contributed to the team throughout the season.
The Valley Regional girls’ indoor track team had a solid showing this winter. The Warriors claimed fourth place in the Shoreline Conference Championship.
A handful of competitors snagged silver medals for Valley at Shorelines. Maddie Costello earned second place in the high jump, Audrey Lenda took second in the long jump, and Margaret Jacaruso finished second in the 600-meter run.
In the high jump, Caroline Hutchinson took fifth place, and Loretta Cecchini claimed seventh place. In the 55-meter dash, Lexi Ross took fifth place, while teammate Hanna Babek placed eighth. In the 600, Madeline Jacaruso finished sixth, and Lacey Hall finished eighth.
The 4x400 relay of Margaret Jacaruso, Haskins, Hall, and Costello came in fifth place, while the 4x200 quartet of Babek, Madeline Jacaruso, Lenda, and Ross finished ninth.
In the Class S State Championship meet, Valley came in 18th place by scoring four points as a team. The Warriors’ 4x200 relay of Ross, Babek, Lenda, and Madeline Jacaruso earned those points with a fourth-place performance. Costello claimed ninth place in the high jump.
The Valley Regional boys’ indoor track team saw a pair of athletes compete at the Shoreline Conference Championship meet.
Andrew Fergusen took second place in the 55-meter dash for the Warriors at Shorelines. Teammate Ryan Shasha claimed third place in the high jump. Shasha wold go on to take fourth place in the high jump at the Class S State Championship.
The high school season was canceled this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Valley’s baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, rowing, outdoor track, and golf teams were unable to compete.
The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to cancel the Deep River Horseshoe League’s (DRHL) 65th season of competition this summer. However, Connecticut moved into phase two of its reopening plan, allowing for competitions with the masking and social distancing of participants.
The DRHL held a 10-week regular season featuring 16 teams and then wrapped up with a postseason tournament to determine the league champion. After Week 10, eight teams qualified for a postseason in which the Royals came out on top. The Royals earned a 3-2 win over the Cardinals in the quarterfinals, a 3-0 win against the Mets in the semis, and a 4-0 victory over the Rangers in the final.
The Royals’ regular-season roster included league-leading scorer and Division A player Mark Goodale, B Player Dave Aldrich, and C player George Talmadge. Aldrich had to sit out the postseason, and Sheryl Serviss substituted for him in the tournament.
The runner-up Rangers featured Division A player Mike Zanelli, Jr., B player Andy Perna, and C player Paul Stevens.
After an extended preseason of conditioning, most of Valley Regional’s sports teams were able to compete at the beginning of October. Squads were scheduled to play about half of typical season’s slate and, while no state tournaments would be held, all teams would potentially have a chance to participate in conference tournaments. The Warriors saw impressive runs by the girls’ volleyball and boys’ soccer teams during the season.
The Valley Regional girls’ volleyball team put forth an outstanding campaign by posting a record of 8-1. Unfortunately, the Warriors were unable to defend their Shoreline Conference title after a spike in positive COVID-19 tests at Valley Regional High School forced the Warriors’ season to be canceled prior to their regular-season finale.
Valley featured a new-look coaching staff as Christine Miller became the Warriors’ head coach after previously serving as an assistant coach. Valley also welcomed a new assistant coach in Patrice Nelson.
The Warriors were bolstered by four outstanding senior captains in hitter Ava Boyles, libero Emma Counter, setter Alena Crosby, and hitter Jamie Pullin. Boyles earned the Shoreline Conference’s Most Valuable Player Award and also garnered All-State Honorable Mention. Crosby garnered All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors. Counter earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team recognition, while junior Salmi Miller also made the All-Shoreline Second Team. Pullin received All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention.
The Valley Regional boys’ soccer squad proved one of the best teams in the Shoreline Conference. The Warriors notched a 7-3 record and earned the No. 3 seed in the Shoreline Conference Tournament. However, Head Coach Mick Fearon’s squad wouldn’t appear in the postseason due to an increased positivity rate in COVID-19 tests at the high school. The Warriors missed out on their final regular-season game and also Shorelines when the school temporarily closed.
Senior captain Michael Brooks was a key defender for Valley and earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors for his contributions. Junior midfielder Jake Burdick garnered All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors, as well as All-State Honorable Mention. Fellow junior Tucker Burr also earned All-Shoreline Conference First Team recognition.
Junior back Andrew Salbinski was presented with All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors. Senior forward Ryan Silva received All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention. Assistant Coach Bryant Ziobron was recognized as Shoreline Conference Coach of the Year for the third-straight campaign.
One year after reaching the Shoreline Conference final, the Valley Regional girls’ soccer squad put together another solid season in 2020. The Warriors posted a solid record of 4-4-2, but were unable to take another shot at Shorelines due to a rise in COVID-19 cases at the high school. The remainder of the Warriors’ season was canceled before their last regular-season game.
Head Coach Lauren MacDonald depended on the support of two outstanding senior captains in Maddie Costello and Hannah Jenkins. As a team, Valley was presented with the Shoreline Conference Adversity Award for rising above the challenges of the year with aplomb.
Junior Taryn Frazier garnered All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors for the Warriors this year. Costello earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors, while Sophia Surber and Caroline Hutchinson both received All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention.
The Valley Regional field hockey team put together a solid season and finished with a record of 2-4-2-2. The Warriors would have played in the Shoreline Conference Tournament as the No. 4 seed, but due to positive COVID-19 tests at Valley Regional, the school had to temporarily close. The Warriors’ season was canceled just before their last scheduled game.
Head Coach Beth McCabe Powers’s squad had just one senior athlete on the roster in captain Lauren Weigman, who earned All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention. Weigman was supported by a handful of junior captains in Abby Amara, Margaret Jacaruso, and Grace Haskins. Amara garnered All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors, while Jacaruso earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team recognition. Haskins received All-Shoreline Conference Honorable mention. Junior Brooke Lavigne was also recognized with All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors.