STRATFORD—Dan Romaniello bleeds Bunnell blue.
The former three-sport BHS athlete, however, has a different kind of connection with the Bulldogs’ girls varsity volleyball program.
From 2004-06, Bunnell won three straight Class LL volleyball championships.
Romaniello was in the stands for many of those games as one of the team’s most ardent student supporters.
“We didn’t have a boys team, even though we always tried to start one,” he said. “My love of the game started honestly with the girls team. We were one of the biggest supporting acts of the program. We traveled all over the place following them. We were pretty big menaces, cheering them on.”
This fall, Romaniello—a 2007 BHS graduate—is now the man in charge of the program, taking over a varsity team that went 5-13 a year ago and missed the state tournament.
“I think he’s excited to be taking over,” Bunnell athletic director Wayne Thrall said. “During the interview process, he conveyed his vision for the program and how he hoped to jump-start it and get it back to where we’re competing at the league and state level. If you watch him on the sidelines, he’s positive has high energy and he bleeds blue.”
A 2012 graduate of Southern Connecticut, Romaniello was a soccer player, tennis player and swimmer at Bunnell.
At SCSU, though, he played club volleyball and continues to play competitively even today.
He got into coaching as a way to give back to the sport and is currently with the Fairfield Warde boys varsity program in the spring.
An art teacher at the Wooster Middle School, Romaniello was an assistant coach with the Bunnell girls program last fall.
This season, he’s taking over the spot from former coach Maite Mendizabal.
“Redistricting really hurt us,” Romaniello said. “I’d see all these kids wearing volleyball shirts around (Wooster) and they all ended up over at Stratford. That killed us.”
Romaniello has started a youth volleyball program to act as a feeder system for both schools. It had more than 40 youngsters taking part.
“The eventual goal is to get us back into being the powerhouse Bunnell once had,” Romaniello said. “That’s way more a long-term goal, though. The short term, for this season, is to try to get to eight wins. That’s our No. 1 goal.”
Romaniello said last year’s team—which lost two starters—had the talent to make the state tournament but gave away too many points and games.
Fixing that this season with a team that is expected to have up to eight seniors will be key.
“This year, we’re looking to bounce back,” he said.
The new coach admitted he is excited to be coaching a program that means so much to him.
“I’m ecstatic to be given this opportunity,” Romaniello said. “It’s something I’ve wanted for a while. This is a huge opportunity and I’m really hoping to step forward and bring something back to Bunnell.”