Volleyball star Liana Sarkissian soars to new heights, joins Flyers

Liana Sarkissian goes up for a peak (Photo provided by Arshak Sarkissian)

GREENWICH, Conn. – Liana Sarkissian is what you would call an all-round team player on the volleyball court. She’s feisty and multi-talented, but at six feet tall Sarkissian’s versatility is simply unmatched.

The 17-year-old Greenwich High School captain is a massive and formidable force on the field. In the front row, Sarkissian delivers sharp, merciless hits and finds holes to dump clever and unexpected tips. Last season, she registered a total of 346 murders. As a center blocker, she rejected 72 strikes, with the tops of her fingertips reaching well over a foot above the net. And instead of rotating after her serve, which most tall players do, Sarkissian stays inside and plays the back row as one of the strongest passers on her team.

Sarkissian is a seemingly natural who has only been playing volleyball for five years. She remembers playing a pink volleyball with her older sister on the beach when she was about 11 years old. “I have always been very athletic. My mom said when I was a baby, I ran before I walked,” she recalled with a smile during an after-school interview with the Weekly earlier this week.

Entering the ninth grade, Sarkissian joined the Evergreen Volleyball Academy (EVA), where she learned the fundamentals from any position on the court during two-hour drills held three times a week. “I’ve been really lucky to have coaches who believed in me and helped me become who I am,” Sarkissian said. “I’m still learning a lot from them and my teammates.”

At Greenwich High, where she has maintained a GPA of 4.5, she teamed up with head coach Steve Lapham, who witnessed her continued improvement and marveled at her unique ability to play all six positions at her height. “Liana just kept working. She deserved that spot [in the back row]’ he told The Weekly. “She had the whole package. She caused a lot of fear in many of our opponents.”

Lapham finished his 29-year coaching career with Sarkissian and the Cardinals last season, taking a 26-1 record as the 2021 CIAC Class LL state volleyball champions.

“It was the best last year,” said Sarkissian, a Second Team Under Armor All-American and an All-FCIAC First Team athlete. “We were so close to each other. We could rely on each other anyway. We played for each other. That is what sets us apart.”

Sarkissian, who has just been named Connecticut’s top high school volleyball player by Gatorade, is also an active member of her local Armenian community. She attended Armenian school every Saturday from kindergarten through eighth grade at St. Gregory the Enlightener’s Armenian Apostolic Church in White Plains, NY and later volunteered as a teaching assistant. She says she cherishes her interactions with her grandparents and appreciates her parents’ unconditional support. “Everything I do is a representation of my family. They always help me no matter what,” Sarkissian said, noting the hours spent in the car with her mother driving to and from training and tournaments and watching the highlights with her father.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” said her father Arshak, who always believed that his daughter would grow into a good athlete. “I think she has exceeded all our expectations. If she sets her mind to it, she can do anything.”

Like many athletes at the start of the pandemic, Sarkissian had to spend time away from the team sport she loves. So she started strength training and conditioning with her father in their basement. “She got bigger and stronger. She felt good about it, and I felt good about it. We’ve established a connection that we’ve never had before,” he said.

Liana Sarkissian is committed to the University of Dayton (Photo provided by Arshak Sarkissian)

Last year, the Sarkissians assisted their daughter in one of the most important decisions of her sports career. After sifting through multiple offers from a number of universities across the country, Sarkissian pledged to play Division 1 volleyball in the fall on a scholarship to the University of Dayton. The future Flyer, who is going to study computer science, says he is excited to start this next chapter and compete at a more demanding level. “There’s less room for mistakes,” she said, “I think I have a lot more room to grow. I think that’s how they see me… not for where I am now, but where I could be. I want to learn.”

Aside from competing, Sarkissian says she appreciates the relationships she’s built over the years and looks forward to sharing her energetic spirit with her new teammates.

“The best thing about Liana is that she’s just a really nice person,” Lapham said. “She came in every morning all season and just opened my office door to say ‘good morning’. You don’t get that from everyone. She put time into it. She set her goals. I’m so happy for her that she’s taken her game to Division 1 level.”

Leeza Arakelian

Leeza Arakelian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She is a graduate of UCLA and Emerson College. Leeza has written and produced for local and network television news, including Boston 25 and Al Jazeera America.

Leeza Arakelian

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