Fairfield's co-op boys volleyball team ended last year with a loss to Southington in the quarterfinals of the CIAC Class L tournament. Most of Fairfield's players on that team, which finished 16-5 overall, graduated in June. Coach Garrett Covino, in his sixth year with the team, has too many new players for any discussion of the team's task this year not to include the word rebuilding.
Twelve players have graduated from the 2013 team that compiled a 15-3 regular-season record before losing to Ridgefield in the FCIAC semifinals, six of whom were starters. Only captain Tim Berardino, a junior middle blocker, returns to Fairfield's starting lineup. He was a middle hitter whose quickness and agility surprised some teams last spring, Covino said.
Sophomore Daniel Kim, who returns to the varsity, will start as the team's setter. Junior JP DelBene, in his first spring on varsity, has impressed Covino at outside hitter in the preseason. Junior Tyler Dancho should start on the right side. Sophomore Noah Adelstein is a 6-foot-5 inch middle blocker who could be a force, Covino said.
Freshman Guilerme Lima, a transfer from Brazil, helps the team through his "prior knowledge and skill level," Covino said. Lima will lead Fairfield's service receive and defense, he said. Anthony Ward, a 10th-grader, will be a defensive specialist. He will provide consistent passing, according to Covino, and junior Michael Sheets could help the team with strong hitting and blocking from the right side.
"Being such a young team, we will really need to focus on fundamentals and defense in order to become a strong presence in the FCIAC," Covino said. "We have a lot of athletes on the team who are willing to work hard and get the job done.
"Our greatest weakness is our team's lack of court experience," Covino said. "Having lost so many players and leaders from last year's team, and returning one starting player, the boys will need to lean and adjust as quickly as possible. (That is) not an easy task."
Covino expects Staples and Darien to be the top team in the conference this spring, though he does not count out New Canaan and Danbury.
Fairfield kicks off the season Thursday at 4 p.m. in a non-conference game against Joel Barlow at Fairfield Warde. Four of the nine home matches will be played at Fairfield Ludlowe.