Experienced Volleyball Team Eyeing State Championship
David Creed •
No matter who his players are, Andrew Viselli never steps on a volleyball court believing anything other than his team will destroy the opposing side and take home a victory. Whether it is realistic or not based on his personnel, it creates high expectations for his players and establishes a culture for the program to live by. It has helped the program develop a strong nucleus of players that has Viselli saying the sky is the limit for his team this season.
“We can win a state championship without question,” Viselli said. “You know how I am when it comes to my approach with a single game, but I don’t think I have ever walked into a season saying we can win a state championship.”
The team will be led by senior captain Kalina Natcheva. Senior outside hitter Kacey Riseborough (four-year starter), junior Chloe Marrero (third-year starter), and sophomores Bianca Santos and Viktoria Todorova (second-year starters) round out this team’s core.
Viselli believes Riseborough is the most talented player on the team and will be heavily relied upon to rack up points with her vicious ability to hit.
“Kacey is very good. She knows she is very good. She has been the best player on the court but is also the most talented. I think my goal is to get her consistently believing that. I want her to have the mindset that she is one of the top players in the state and that she will get noticed. I don’t think a lot of people around the state think she is yet. They think Chloe is, but I think Kacey sure is. I know she is," Viselli said.
As for Marrero, she has been a staple of Nantucket’s attack for a couple of years now. There aren't many, if any holes in her game. She has an elite ability to finish plays in a similar way to Riseborough while also getting her team points with her serve. Her skillset has Viselli excited for what she will do in her junior season.
“Chloe is a talented kid who decided she would put work in this summer. She is an east coast kid, undersized by every standard in volleyball, and she went out to Stanford to play volleyball in the offseason,” Viselli said. “She worked and she always has worked. She isn't going to back down or be afraid of anybody. Chloe has been in the gym so much and has always had potential, but to be quite honest with you I think she is sick of hearing about her potential. She wants to show what she is right now. She wants hours and hours of practice to see improvements. Chloe developed an arsenal of shots while at Stanford and she is just dropping bombs right now in practice while playing loose and free, so I need to make sure I am letting her do that.”
Bianca Santos will be the team’s setter and Viselli believes the experience from her first season will help her take another step this fall. He said he loves the fire she plays with and her desire to win.
Viselli added that Todorova is the team’s most consistent server and has been stepping up in practice to make sure everyone is coming to the gym with maximum effort while leaving it all on the court.
It won't just be Todorova who is effectively serving for Nantucket. People should expect this team's serving as a whole to be a strength, with several players very capable of securing the Whaler’s points from the back line.
"I am going to run 12 kids this season and I’m like man, where am I going to put these kids because they all need to play because they are all very talented and bring something unique to our team. The best part about them is how well they listen and how coachable they are," Viselli said. "The first couple days of practice some kids didn’t remember how to jump serve. So, I gave them a tutorial and three days later they are yelling to me 'hey coach check this out' and just hitting absolute rockets with reckless abandon. Kacey hits a good ball, Viktoria hits an absolute missile, Rihanna Cranston (sophomore) has the second hardest hit on our team.”
“Jump serves all year baby. We are going to be crushing that thing. We got a lot of players who can get us points there.”
Natcheva’s leadership as a four-year contributor to this team is also being felt as the team gears up for their fall season, Viselli said.
"With Kalina being captain, she is just so fair, so even,” he said. “I called her aside one practice and said 'I could say x, y, z, to the team but I’m telling you right now and walking away.' She heard what I said, I walked away, and she whipped them into shape in three minutes. Having a captain like that is very important for team success.”
Viselli said staying healthy will be a point of emphasis throughout the year but won't get in the way of grueling Saturday practices. He said his team needs to continue to work toward getting into better game shape. He said he sees the same hunger for success that he has seen in past teams earlier in his coaching career while off-island.
“This group of kids loves volleyball and loves playing. I think they really want to leave their mark. We are going to win a championship and be the little Nantucket that could,” he said. “One of the best teams I ever had was my Salem State women’s team. We didn’t have a kid over 5’7 and only had eight players, but we kicked the crap out of everybody we played. It was because we worked our butts off in practice so it was easy in the games when that time came.”
“I’m not here to run a JV program. Now of course I want everyone on our team to have fun and enjoy every minute of this journey, but you have the most fun when you are winning and even if you lose, if you know you left everything on the court and lost in a fifth set 13-15, that is a great loss.”
The full Nantucket volleyball schedule can be accessed by clicking here.