Two Chester leagues serve up volleyball your way Co-ed or women-only, there's no better way to get sand between your toes

A few members of Play Volleyball Like a Girl toss around the ball during an impromptu practice. From left, Clara Martorano, Lori Quinn, Tracy Sorensen and Samantha Vertefeuille. All photos by Cynthia Prairie

By Evan Chadwick
©2022 Telegraph Publishing

The sport of volleyball is a microcosm of community. Each player knows his role, and uses that knowledge to effectively work with others to succeed in various athletic task.

The community aspect of volleyball has found its way into Chester with the blossoming Chester Vermont Volleyball League and the Play Volleyball Like a Girl Thursday night pickup games. Within these leagues are not only the stories of the increasing popularity of the sport, but also a story of a community that has come together to welcome athletes of all levels to one that, just seven years ago, was not even a high school sanctioned sport by the Vermont Principals Association.

The roots of the Chester Vermont Volleyball League

The CVVL was established in 2013 with co-ed teams of six playing on sand courts at MacKenzie Field in Chester. Each year from mid-May until early October the league ran a full season with playoffs.

“I used to play at Jake’s in Londonderry,” said the current commissioner of the CVVL, Jessica Citera, a Londonderry resident. “One day a friend told me about a game in Chester. I went down one night, found a team and started playing.”

Citera eventually took over running the CVVL along with Chester resident Kelly Kehoe, who along with her husband Kirk are the founders of the co-ed league. From that point on, the CVVL began to grow, from six teams in 2013, to up to 15 teams. More than 100 players come out on any given Tuesday night to enjoy not just the game, but the community surrounding it.

“People of all abilities come out and play,” said Ricardo Dorcely, a longtime member of the CVVL, a Springfield resident. “It’s a good mix of people.”

The co-ed league finds a home

Although Citera and Kehoe had seen great success in building the league’s popularity, the obstacles of sharing MacKenzie Field in east Chester with other sports such as baseball and softball limited their ability to expand volleyball into other nights of the week despite the increasing demand for matches.

“We couldn’t get any more nights at MacKenzie because softball games could hit balls into the volleyball courts,” said Citera. “At that point we decided to look for a new venue.”

Camaraderie is always served up at the leagues’ games.

Citera, a real estate agent by day, and her husband Barthley Thomas, who coincidentally Citera had met playing in the early years of the CVVL, began to scour listings for land that would meet the needs of their members.

The goal had always been to keep the league in Chester, which became an excellent central location since players come from New Hampshire, Brattleboro and the Upper Valley. With this desire in mind, a strip of land at 47 Balch Road at Route 11 was purchased that, with the help of dedicated members, has quickly transformed into a volleyball paradise.

Three sand courts are available and construction of a pavilion and a covered gathering space are nearly completed.

“Jessica and Barthley found an oversaturated field, and with everyone pitching in, and good leadership, turned a field of mud into something that is more usable and something that keeps being improved,” said Dorcely.

With the fresh space, an abundance of fresh ideas, in an effort to turn the CVVL into something far more than just volleyball, are also starting to take shape.

“We are hoping to host more than just a volleyball league,” said Citera, who has plans to add a youth summer camp and yoga, as well as several tournaments in the coming seasons. “We have all sorts of ideas floating around. Once we get the building up and start playing, then we can talk about what to do next year.”

Regardless of what other events eventually come, the CVVL and its growing influence in the community, including a Facebook page that now has over 300 members, will always fall back to its roots of celebrating a sport that can bring a community together.

“We are a tight-knit group,” said Citera. “League play is a standing BBQ every Tuesday night. You always look forward to it. You get to see friends, over 100 of them each Tuesday, and with the new field, it’s very family friendly.”

If you are interested in registering a team with CVVL, reach out to Citera via the CVVL Facebook page.

Play Volleyball Like a Girl pops up at Pinnacle

When Lori Quinn moved to Chester with her husband Hugh five years ago, she came with a wealth of knowledge in volleyball, having served as a varsity boys’ coach for many years in Connecticut.

From left, Quinn, Martorano, Sorensen and Vertefeuille, who has since given birth to a baby girl, who will no doubt be joining the league in a couple of years.

“We fell in love with the area right away,” says Quinn, who purchased a home in Chester 13 years ago. “We got here as fast as we could. It took eight years but we are here.”

Quinn started playing in the CVVL hoping to compete in a woman’s only league that had lower nets than the co-ed courts.

“I used to play with the CVVL and was hoping for a woman’s net,” says Quinn. “It wasn’t possible to do it at the time, so we were told to check out the Chester Pinnacle Recreation Center, which used to have a volleyball court.”

After receiving permission from the town, and after two seasons — with a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic — Quinn has started to see a growing interest in the sport, as the number of women attending weekly games continues to rise. “Last year we had all kinds of people come and play,” says Quinn, adding that the 2021 season saw more 50 athletes participate. “Our oldest woman was 68 and our youngest was 14. We wanted to make it an inviting and safe place to play and I think we have been able to do that.”

Lori Quinn wanted to create a league specifically for girls and women of all ages.

Quinn is quick to pass on the praise to others, such as town Recreational Director Matt McCarthy, who has given the league all it needs to play each year, including a new load of sand each spring.

“Matt added us to his budget and buys us new sand and rakes it,” says Quinn, adding that the first year, she and her husband hauled off seven wheelbarrow loads of stone that had littered the court.

The fee for playing is $20 for the entire season or $3 per visit. The fees have been sufficient for a small surplus to be built each season that Quinn gives to the Recreation Department at the end of each season. “Whatever money we have left at the end of the season goes right to Matt,” says Quinn.

Quinn says her league is all about pickup, allowing anyone who wants to show up the opportunity to play for as little or as long as they want. “You can just drop in and play,” she says.

Beginners are encouraged to play on Tuesdays; more advanced players can test their mettle on Thursdays. Start time is 6 p.m..

“I thought that if I built it, maybe people would come,” Quinn says. “With a lot of volunteers’ help, they have.”

For more information visit the Play Volleyball Like a Girl Facebook page.

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About the Author: Originally from Rochester, Vermont, Evan Chadwick is a practicing attorney who lives in Brattleboro with his family. He is a 2007 graduate of Keene State College and currently coaches the boys' varsity basketball team at Bellows Falls Union High School.

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