WATERTOWN — The Jefferson Community College volleyball team has relied on local talent to put together back-to-back 20-win seasons.
But this year, fourth-year coach Sara Kent and company will receive help from all corners of the globe in pursuit of a third straight appearance in the Region 3 Playoffs.
This year’s Cannoneers squad will feature two freshmen from Alaska, Kelly Musgraves and Miquella Farris, along with a freshman from Hawaii, Mel Fakatou.
JCC will open the season Saturday by hosting the Jefferson Volleyball Invitational.
“You can tell that they’ve played volleyball their whole lives,” Kent said of the talented trio of imports. “Mel is a smooth, west-coast player where everything comes very easy to her. And Kelly hustles a lot, so we really like that about her.”
Farris was the first of the trio to come to the area. She and her family moved to Alexandria Bay last January when her father, a member of the U.S. Army, was stationed at Fort Drum. She finished her high school career at Thousand Islands and graduated in June.
Musgraves was one of Farris’s closest friends in their hometown of Fairbanks-North Pole, Alaska, the duo said.
After a few conversations with Farris, Musgraves reached out to Kent through email and tried out for the team by sending Kent film. The pair lives together with Farris’s family in Alexandria Bay.
Fakatou, from Laie, Hawaii, moved to the area with her boyfriend when he was stationed at Fort Drum less than a year ago.
Each of the three players said adjusting to life in Watertown wasn’t as drastic a change as it would seem.
“It’s really different from what I thought it would be,” Fakatou said. “It has that old country feeling, no really tall buildings, so it still feels like home for me. There’s a lot of space and a lot of land.”
Musgraves added: “Honestly, Fairbanks isn’t that much different from Watertown, so it’s really not a big change for me environment-wise.”
Fakatou said the biggest difference from home is the lack of big sandy beaches.
“The beach was a disappointment,” she said. “People say there’s a beach here but it was more like just a lake. That’s really different, no big waves or big beaches.”
Musgraves, who just arrived about three weeks ago, said her biggest adjustment has been getting used to the solar cycle. Alaska summers are highlighted by 24/7 daylight.
Musgraves also said she was surprised to see road kill on area highways, as that isn’t a common thing to see in her hometown. Farris echoed that sentiment.
“One of my biggest things when I moved here was everybody hitting deer (with their cars) and like, being OK after,” Farris said. “The only thing that gets hit in Alaska is a moose and if you hit a moose, you’re lucky if you’re OK after.”
The Cannoneers are coming off a 23-13 season where they finished as runners-up in the Mid-State Athletic Conference tournament. JCC won the conference tourney title in 2012, finishing with a 26-11 record. The team reached the Region 3 Playoffs in each of those seasons.
Kent said she expects Haley Riley, a 2013 Lowville graduate, to be a major contributor from the middle blocker position.
Kent also anticipates strong contributions from Jayne Strigle and Marissa Brown, both of whom played on the South Lewis Section 3 Class C championship team last winter.
Rachael Waite from Lowville and Grace Wallace from Sandy Creek will be other players to watch.
Here is a look at all the JCC fall sports teams.
Coach: Sara Kent
2013 record: 23-13
Roster: Jenna Hibbard, So.; Kelly Musgraves, Fr.; Keysha DeJesus Ortiz, So.; Grace Wallace, Fr.; Miquella Farris, Fr.; Olivia Heiler, Fr.; Nikki Wormwood, So.; Mel Fakatou, Fr.; Haley Riley, So.; Samantha Storey, Fr.; Rachael Waite, So.; Marissa Brown, Fr.; Jayne Strigle, Fr.
Coach: Chris Pacilio
2013 record: 2-13-1
Outlook: JCC coach Chris Pacilio believes his team has the talent to reach the Region 3 Playoffs for the first time since 2010. Sonny Liu, from Australia, will man the midfield along with recent Immaculate Heart Central graduates Chris Rowland and Matt Guyette, both of whom helped IHC reach the Class D state final four last fall. Guyette was the 2013 Times All-North Most Valuable Player. Thomas Leech, also from Australia, and Kraig Steele, a second-year player from South Jefferson, will be a big part of the offensive attack up front. Pacilio also said freshman Tim Peters from Watertown High has been impressive throughout the preseason and could be in line for a big year. Jacob LaClair, a second-year player from Indian River, is back to start in goal.
Roster: Chris Rowland, Fr.; Matt Guyette, Fr.; Jacob LaClair, So.; Tim Peters, Fr.; Kraig Steele, So.; Sonny Liu, Fr.; Thomas Leech, Fr.; Andres Dominguez, Fr.; Pearce Parsons, So.; Cordel Brouty, Fr.; Kyle Miller, So.; Cody Carpenter, So.; Christian Johnson, So.; Lucas Brown, Fr.; Tyrell Tyron, Fr.; Jason Reape, Fr.; Matthew Glowfeskie, Fr.; Aaron Garcia, Fr.; Jonathan Hamilton, Fr.; Bradley Lalone, Fr.; Kemar Liewellyn, Fr.; Gavin Davidson, Fr.; Carlton Yelle, Fr.
Coach: Dave Bowhall
2013 record: 4-9
Outlook: Three players return from last year’s squad to lead a young group that hopes to improve on its win total from a season ago. Coach Dave Bowhall said he believes the team has the tools to be a consistent scoring threat. Sophomore Whitney Maitland (Belleville Henderson) and freshman Mackenzie Kidder (Carthage) should be the team’s top goal-scoring options. Sophomore Caitlyn Graves (Sackets Harbor) will anchor the defense while freshman Katie Aldrich (Watertown High) will step into the starting goalie spot. Several freshmen will man the midfield.
Roster: Katie Aldrich, Fr.; Olivia Barker, Fr.; Kali Frank, Fr.; Caitlyn Graves, So.; Mackenzie Kidder, Fr.; Whitney Maitland, So.; Danny Morrow, Fr.; Kerstin Phelps, Fr.; Francheska Rivera, So.; Lauren Smith, Fr.; Annette Rishe, Fr.; Makenna Honeywell, Fr.; Deleha Decker, Fr.; Morgan Exford, Fr.