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The Hartford Courant

New Direction The Right Way To Go

By GARY GRAMLING, Courant Staff Writer

July 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Hartford Courant. All rights reserved. 

The first time East Hartford coach Sue Patria saw senior Jose Antonetti playvolleyball, she was ready to make a place for him on her team.

Patria, a gym teacher, spotted Antonetti playing in another teacher's class.

"I would see him on and off in gym class and it seemed like every free moment he had he was playing volleyball," Patria said. "I knew he had lots and lots of talent."

But it seemed unlikely he would play.

Antonetti, who had spent his entire life in Puerto Rico, moved to East Hartford in November to live with his father, who had arrived in July. He played baseball and volleyball for most of his life, but he was hoping to play baseball at East Hartford, something he couldn't do in Puerto Rico because his school didn't have a program. After making the baseball team and going through the first week of practice, Antonetti decided to go a different route.

"I really wasn't having fun" said Antonetti, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter. "I decided to switch to volleyball after I was told I could."

Patria was glad to have Antonetti on the team, but there were some problems. Not only had he missed the first week of practice, there also was a language barrier. Antonetti's English has improved in the past year and East Hartford had a number of players who speak fluent Spanish, but at times it was difficult for Patria and Antonetti to communicate.

"A lot of times, to get my point across on the court, we'd have a lot of translations," Patria said. "It worked out quite well."

Since Antonetti missed the first week of practice, he spent most of the first part of the season on the bench. His first game was April 29 against NFA, the Hornets' fifth game. But Antonetti's breakout performance came a day later when he had 32 kills and 20 blocks in a victory over Fermi-Enfield.

"He had a lot of skills, but he had to learn strategy," Patria said. "He's very strong and he can really hit the ball in the front row," Patria said. "He focuses in on what he wants to work on. He's very even-tempered, so if he doesn't get something the first time he works on it again and again.

"Jose became one of the best players in the state. Every coach knew him."

Antonetti followed that performance with 29 kills in a 3-1 win over Glastonbury on May 2, establishing himself as one of the state's top players.

"He was the dominant player in the match," Glastonbury coach Pat Ryan said. "He was consistently ripping sharp crosscourt shots that I'm not used to seeing high school players hit, even at the club level."

Antonetti led East Hartford to the Class L semifinals and the Hornets nearly knocked off eventual state champion Ridgefield 3-2 in one of the year's best matches.

"Defense is what he needs to work on," Patria said. "Our whole team did, and unfortunately that led to our downfall."

Antonetti is still undecided on a college, but is determined to play volleyball and baseball at the next level. He would like to stay in New England, but because he started his college search late he may attend the University of Puerto Rico on a volleyball scholarship.

"He just blended in so well with the team," Patria said. "I said `This is a kid I wish I had on the team for four years.'"

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