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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
When the Elmira Heat volleyball program began it was one team looking to give local athletes a chance to play travel volleyball.

In a short time the program has grown to six teams with age groups from 12u to 18u, with the program playing in the winter, and summer.

“It started when there wasn’t a lot (of teams) in our area,” Club Director Sue Carozzoni said. “There was this other travel group and my daughter did that and we decided to branch out and we started with one team, 12u or 13u. The girls did good, it was great, then Covid hit. Right now we are in maybe our third consecutive year and we have six teams.”

The team draws from all over with players not just from Elmira, but from throughout the Southern Tier, and beyond.

“A lot of different areas,” Carozzoni said. “One tryout we had over 100 girls. One girl on 18u just moved from Arkansas and lives in Wellsboro (Pa.) now. We have Ithaca, Horseheads, Elmira, Corning and a couple more from Pennsylvania.”

The team has a lot of experienced coaches in the program. Jen Leonberger, Elmira’s new varsity coach, coaches the 12u team along with Kristen Barkley and the 13u team is coached by Barb Barnes. Alyssa Covas, who along with Carozzoni was one of the co-founders of the league, coaches 14u and 18u.

Mandy Fife, the Elmira modified coach, coaches 15u and Jordan McCooy, Edison’s JV coach, coaches the other 15u team.

“I’m very happy (to have the coaches they have),” Carozzoni said. “It just shows there is commitment around here to this sport. They are all coaches from Elmira, coaches from Horseheads. We have six coaches that are local and are absolutely fantastic. That’s why a lot of people (other travel teams) folded, they can’t get coaches to commit.”

The winter season starts in October.

“That season runs from October and we end at the Happy Volley Championship in Penn State,” Carozzoni said. “This year five of our six teams went. It really offered the girls a chance to play grass volleyball. That’s why we do this, grass volleyball is all over.”

Volleyball players will get a taste of grass volleyball locally this weekend as the heat hold their second annual Volleypalooza.

There are over 50 players in all age groups, from youth to adult, and there are co-ed and doubles teams with action starting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Meads Creek Outdoor Market in Painted Post. The whole thing is open free to spectators. And there will be a bake sale, music, basket raffle, 50/50 raffle and Covalita’s Mexican Food Truck will be there.

The summer season gives kids a chance to play at a number of grass events.

“The Pottstown Rumble, the biggest grass tournament in the country, and we have brought the girls there,” Carozzoni said. “We do that (grass tournaments) all summer long and take them to Ontario to play beach tournaments. The summer is not as organized as the winter, but we put together the opportunities and a lot take advantage of it. That’s why we started last year (doing a summer schedule), it’s so fun.”

In the winter the team plays in the Western Empire Volleyball Association and they play a lot of tournaments, many of them in Pennsylvania.

The Elmira Heat have grown over the years and now pull athletes from all over, and after a travel team in Horseheads folded up the team drew some more players from Horseheads and now the team has many kids from both Horseheads and Elmira on the team.

“It’s fun, it’s that fun competitiveness,” Carozzoni said. “Now it’s like they are friends across the net, it’s very cool.”

Tryouts for the winter team will begin in the end of October, or early November, and people can follow the Elmira Heat Volleyball Facebook page to keep up with all the information on the team, and learn about exact tryout dates and locations as it gets closer to to the tryout dates.

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