GREENWICH, Conn.—Liana Sarkissian is what one would call an all-around team player on the volleyball court. She’s spirited and multi-talented, but at 6 feet 4 inches, Sarkissian’s level of versatility is simply unmatched.
The 17-year-old senior captain at Greenwich High School is a towering and formidable force on the court. At the front row, Sarkissian delivers sharp, merciless hits and scouts for holes to dump smart and unexpected tips. Last season, she recorded a total of 346 kills. As middle blocker, she rejected 72 attacks, the top of her fingertips reaching well over a foot above the net. And instead of rotating out after her serves, which is what most tall players do, Sarkissian stays in and plays the back row as one of the strongest passers on her team.
A seemingly natural talent, Sarkissian has only been playing volleyball for five years. She remembers peppering with a pink volleyball with her older sister at the beach when she was around 11 years old. “I’ve always been really athletic. My mom said when I was a baby, I ran before I walked,” she recalled with a smile during an interview with the Weekly after school earlier this week.
When she entered the ninth grade, Sarkissian joined Evergreen Volleyball Academy (EVA), where she learned to master the fundamentals from every position on the court during two hour practices which are held three times a week. “I’ve been really fortunate to have coaches who believed in me and helped me become who I am,” said Sarkissian. “I’m still learning a lot from them and my teammates.”
At Greenwich High, where she has maintained a 4.5 GPA, she worked with head coach Steve Lapham, who witnessed her continuous improvement and marveled at her unique ability to play all six positions at her height. “Liana just kept working. She earned that spot [in the back row],” he told the Weekly. “She had the whole package. She put a lot of fear in a lot of our opponents.”
Lapham capped off his 29-year coaching career with Sarkissian and the Cardinals last season, boasting a 26-1 record as the 2021 CIAC Class LL state volleyball champions.
“It was the best senior year,” said Sarkissian, a Second Team Under Armour All-American and an All-FCIAC First Team athlete. “We were so close with each other. We could rely on each other no matter what. We played for each other. That’s what set us apart.”
Sarkissian, who was just named Connecticut’s best high school volleyball player by Gatorade, is also an active member of her local Armenian community. She attended Armenian school every Saturday from preschool to eighth grade at St. Gregory the Enlightener Armenian Apostolic Church in White Plains, NY and later volunteered as a teacher’s assistant. She says she cherishes her interactions with her grandparents and appreciates the unconditional support of her parents. “Everything I do is a representation of my family. They always help me no matter what,” said Sarkissian, noting the hours she has spent in the car with her mom driving to and from practices and tournaments and watching highlight reels with her father.
“I couldn’t be any more proud,” said her father Arshak, who always believed his daughter would grow up to become a good athlete. “I think she’s surpassed all of our expectations. If she puts her mind to it, she can do anything.”
Like many athletes at the start of the pandemic, Sarkissian was forced 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 established a connection that we never had before,” he said.
Last year, the Sarkissians assisted their daughter in one of the most important decisions of her athletic career. After sifting through multiple offers from a number of universities across the country, Sarkissian committed to play Division 1 volleyball on scholarship at the University of Dayton in the fall. The future Flyer, who will be pursuing a degree in computer science, says she’s excited to embark on this next chapter and compete at a more demanding level. “There’s less room for error,” 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 values the relationships she’s built over the years and looks forward to sharing her energetic spirit with her new teammates.
“The best part about Liana is she’s just a really nice person,” said Lapham. “She’d come in every morning all season and just open my office door to say ‘good morning.’ You don’t get that from everybody. She put the time in. She set her goals. I’m so happy for her to take her game to the Division 1 level.”