Usually, Matt Narwold was an “in the moment” kind of coach. The “one-game-at-a-time mantra,” all that kind of stuff. Not anymore.

“I don’t normally speak about what we have. I just say, ‘let’s win this game,’ “ Narwold said. “But I came in this year and said to the players, ‘If you don’t think we have an opportunity to win the FCIAC’s this year, you have the wrong mentality.’ We have to know that we can win every game because we have the skills.”

Coming off a 9-9 campaign and making the Class LL tournament, Warde is looking to be a lot better this season, especially after losing just two seniors and returning a solid core of players, including tri-captains Clare Burns, Jen Schneider and Kiera McNeill.

“Taking over this program six years ago. Warde had never made the states, never made the FCIACs and over that time, we’ve developed a program,” Narwold said. “Now, we’re right there. And as the program builds, I’m changing the way that we think about things, changing how we prepare for things. I love using (motivational) You Tube clips. All that mental preparedness, it gets the team fired up.”

Along with the three captains, Warde returns junior Nicole Vacarella, senior setter Keira McNeil, junior Maddie Russell and sophomore Libby McKenna.

“I get excited talking about this season. We did lose some players, we lost Hannah (Wolf), senior captain on the right side, that’s a spot we had to fill in,” Narwold said. “I have a 6-foot-3 middle (Vacarella), who played a lot of off-season volleyball coming back. We have a lot of experience and a lot of ‘family’ oriented people coming back to the program.

“The chemistry is overwhelming. When we finished tryouts and set the team, all the girls were saying ‘see you later’ and I asked one of the captains what was going on and she said that they were all going out to dinner together as a team bonding experience before I had even mentioned anything like that. They already had that ‘team’ mindset.”

LUDLOWE

Last season, led by seniors Olivia Auray, April Cooke, Keki Cardenas, Andrea Alvarez, Liz Buckley and Caitlyn Sprinkle, Ludlowe went 20-4, played in the FCIAC championship game and reached the Class LL semifinals.

But those six seniors are gone. Normally, that kind of loss could devastate a program. But not the Falcons, who are expecting another stellar season.

“I like the word reloading because we really have some tremendous depth both in the senior class and junior class and some upcoming sophomores, so it’s really exciting,” head coach Meghan Skelton said. “We have a lot of athleticism, girls that can play multiple positions and can play them extremely well. The girls were really dedicated to the sport in the off-season, so I’m looking forward to the possibilities. This should be a great year for us as long as we can figure out the best positions and the best personalities jelling together.”

Senior setter Olivia Albenze will be Skelton’s go-to player this season, along with junior middle blocker Abbie Constantino. Isabelle Andrews, who didn’t play much last season but has improved by “leaps and bounds” according to Skelton, will also be counted on for big things as will Alice Nelson, Gillian Quinn, Kylie McCaffery, Julia Wilson, Alexandra McKinnon and Erin Rosengren.

“There’s a lot that we still have to figure out and that’s going to be a challenge but the athleticism and the ability is there. I’m excited,” Skelton said. “It’s just a matter of putting all those cards together. Making sure chemistry is working. We’re still new and in that beginning stage of awkwardness but the talent level is there.”

Ludlowe will look to dominate points at the net with its size and work on improving its serve and receive techniques, which were problematic at times last season.

“Being strong at the net had always been on of our strengths fortunately, so is our athleticism,” Skelton said. “A lot of our tall girls are able to play all the way around. Serve and receive? That’s still every team Achilles’ heel. If it’s on, it’s on and if its not, you’re in trouble. We have to continue to work on that.”

ND-FAIRFIELD

Led by returning seniors MacKenzie Dobbins, Brooke McCone, Elyse Politica, Geovanna Badaro and Tamia Brown, the Lancers will look to improve on last fall’s three-win season.

Juniors Connie Tucker,Shelby Nolan, Livia Silva, Carmela Badolato, Mary Biasetti, T’aira Green, Olivia Keden and Kimberly Valdovinos and sophomore Michaela Luk, will provide depth for head coach Jon Mercado.