SHELTON - Shelton girls volleyball coach LeAnne Bianchine wishes she could say all things are peaches and cream.

“We will battle this season, I’m not going to lie,” Bianchine said. “My varsity last year, they played for me for 3 year. They knew how to play together (16-3 regular season, Classs LL quarterfinalists). These guys are just learning. Not having those two weeks with a volleyball and scrimmages, it is tough, but we will figure it out.”

Shelton split its first week matches, losing to Amity 3-0 and defeating Lauralton Hall 3-2.

“It is nice to be on the court, seeing the kids happy, and getting that part of their life back,” Bianchine said of her Gaelettes, who will be captained by Clarissa Pierre, Jess Jayakar and Alexandra Capalbo. “We finally touched a volleyball a week ago Thursday. After 3 weeks straight of conditioning, it was great to be back with the ball and the net.”

COVID-19 is still part of the daily process.

“Wearing the mask, getting them to stay 6-feet apart. I give all the girls credit on every team for wearing these masks. I don’t know how they are playing and hearing each other out there on the court,” Bianchine said. “Some teams are pulling bleachers out for kids that don’t play or for JVs. I pull chairs out and spread kids apart. We follow all the rules with the kids.”

There are other changes.

“I wish they let captains come for coin toss, they can stand apart,” Bianchine said, noting that part of being a captain is a privilege that players have worked towards. “I know it is a silly thing, but that is part of being a captain. I go and then yell back for them to make the call, so at least they have that.”

An extra 30-second timeout for a mask break is available to each team. There is no shaking hands. Players go by the 10-foot line before the match to say good luck and after the match they wave and say good game. There is no switching sides after sets.

Bianchine said: “Clarissa Pierre is our middle hitter, Jess Jayakar is an outside hitter, and Alex Capalbo is my setter. We have big holes to fill at setter with Jess Foss having graduated. Alex is doing a great job. I’m proud of the way she’s stepped up to fill a difficult position.

“Our other hitters are junior Julia Krijgsman, senior Kassidy Wojtowicz and senior Bella Giliotti. I have 2 liberos, senior Annabella Leone and sophomore Albana Hima. Albana brings both black jersey and a libero jersey so I can put her in as DS (defensive specialist) as well.”

Bianchine sees room for improvement.

“We aren’t placing the ball exactly in serve,” she said. “We have some solid servers who pulled us out in our match with Lauralton Hall. In game 5 we were down 6-1, 7-1 and we came back and won 15-9, 15-10, and that’s because Alex Capalbo went back there and ripped off the last 4 points with 3 aces to finish the game for us.”

Capalbo finished with 9 aces and 2 digs. Jayakar had 11 kills, 10 digs and 6 aces. Pierre closed with 9 kills and 5 aces. Krijgsman had 7 kills and 5 aces.

The season opener with Amity also taught Shelton a lesson.

“Not having those weeks to practice and scrimmage hurt a bit against Amity,” Bianchine said. “No excuses, because the girls got to play in the summer. We didn’t play well; Amity was better. The games were close, but our defense didn’t get it done. My sophomore class and my freshman class are very strong. We have some really solid kids coming up.”

Against Amity, Jayakar had 11 kills, 11 digs and 2 aces, Pierre 10 digs, 4 kills, 3 blocks and 2 aces, and Krijgsman 4 kills, 3 digs and 2 aces.

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354