This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published September 2, 2021
With her older sister competing for the girls’ volleyball team at North Branford Intermediate School, Marissa Ricardo decided that she wanted to play the sport herself in 6th grade. Marissa’s passion for the sport and skillset on the court have continually flourished since then, leading Marissa to a nice career with the T-Birds in which she earned a captain’s role as a junior last fall.
Marissa is now entering her senior year as a captain for North Branford. Marissa feels glad that she joined the team based on her sister Julia’s influence and knows that the time they spent working together proved huge in her improvement.
“When she was on the team, I really thought I would enjoy the sport, as well. She encouraged me to try out for the team,” Marissa says of her sister. “We would go in the backyard, and she taught me all the basics. She got me into it, and I ended up loving it just as much as she did.”
Marissa enjoyed playing volleyball during her 6th-grade season, but still wasn’t sure if it would become a full-time thing for her. However, after playing two more years at the intermediate school level, Marissa had no doubts that she was going to continue with the sport in high school.
“I knew I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t know how far I’d go with it,” says Marissa. “My 7th- and 8th-grade years, I really did love the sport, and I wanted to keep playing it.”
Marissa and her teammates moved all around North Branford’s rotation during her middle school years, because the coaching staff wanted to see which positions were the best fit for every player. Marissa felt that the outside hitter position was the ideal spot for her and has stayed there throughout her career with the high school team.
While she considers herself a little on the short side for an outside hitter, Marissa refuses to back down against her opponents. Marissa makes up for any height differential through her sheer determination on the volleyball court.
“At first, it was pretty intimidating. I am 5 feet, 3 inches. I’m a little shorter for the position. But I knew that if I kept working hard, the position would come more naturally to me,” Marissa says. “I worked on jumping higher, and the position came more easily. It’s a position I enjoy. I like being at the net. Sometimes seeing the tall girl on the other side does intimidate me, but I’m up there just as much as she is.”
Marissa spent most of her freshman year competing for the T-Birds’ JV team. However, by the end of the season, she became cross-rostered and started playing both varsity and JV. Although it was a nerve-wracking transition, Marissa credits her teammates for making her feel welcomed on the varsity club.
“My teammates were very welcoming and very positive. It made it very easy to fit right in,” says Marissa. “Playing varsity as a freshman was something I had to get used to, but I loved the high intensity.”
With North Branford featuring a senior-laden team in her sophomore year, Marissa continued to play both varsity and JV that season. Once her junior year came around, Marissa made the jump to become a starting varsity outside hitter with the Thunderbirds.
Marissa was also selected as a junior captain for North Branford last fall. Initially, Marissa was hesitant about taking that role, but was encouraged to do so by both her sister as well as last year’s senior captains, Mackenzie Burwell and Emily Olson.
“At first, I wasn’t even sure I was going to run for junior captain, but my sister and all my teammates were really encouraging. They encouraged me to go for it, I got it, and I loved it,” Marissa says. “The other two captains made it really easy. I didn’t have to do it alone.”
Tori Ramada became the head coach of North Branford girls’ volleyball when Marissa was a freshman in 2018. Ramada says that Marissa has become a key member of the Thunderbirds by virtue of both her leadership and solid play during the past four years.
“Marissa has been a great asset to the volleyball team. She has been a varsity player since her freshman year and has always excelled in matches,” says Ramada. “As a two-year captain, Marissa always leads by example and works with the team on ways to be successful, as well as improve.”
Marissa is looking forward to leading North Branford as a senior captain alongside fellow senior Carley Parente this fall. Marissa wants to help the Thunderbirds get better every day and finish their campaign with a winning record.
“By the end of the season, I definitely want us to be a winning team,” says Marissa, who is also a member of the North Branford girls’ basketball squad. “Going into the season, I want every practice taken just as serious as games. Every game, we just have to fight for every single point and not get in our heads. We have to go in with confidence.”
Marissa dreamed of becoming a varsity player and a captain for North Branford when she first started with volleyball. Now, Marissa is living her dream as a member of a team that she feels honored to represent.
“It’s something I always knew I wanted to do. I wanted to be senior captain and play varsity. It’s amazing,” Marissa says. “All the teammates and all the coaches are so great and make it so much fun. It’s a great atmosphere, and the program is definitely evolving.”