Nathaniel Felicetti

Senior Nathaniel Felicetti was the Chariho boys volleyball team’s top returning hitter. Unfortunately for Felicetti and the Chargers, a promising season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. | Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

CHARLESTOWN — For some, the exposure to volleyball usually goes like this: In the summer at a family gathering someone puts up a net and everyone joins in to play. Getting it across the net becomes an adventure. Some play seriously; most do not.

Or it's part of a day at the beach. Sun, sand and volleyball are all components of the summer routine.

But for Chariho High senior Nathan Felicetti, it was a bit different.

Felicetti didn't start playing organized volleyball until he was in seventh grade. Before then it was backyard volleyball, but not in the way most of us experience the sport.

Felicetti's brother Gabe, who is three years older, was a two-time All-State player at Chariho High, and his father, Dean, played the sport two years at the school.

That's definitely not your typical backyard talent.

"Those games were a little different," Felicetti said. "I would not say my father pushed us to play volleyball, but he might have gently nudged us."

Felicetti turned to a more competitive brand of the sport in seventh grade, playing for the Blast Volleyball club in Providence. He then followed in the steps of his brother and father at Chariho.

Last season, Felicetti was one of the top hitters on the team. The Chargers play in Division I against the big boys  in the state. Felicetti had a number of games last season in which he led the team in kills, including many in double digits.

Felicetti was anticipating another solid season for the Chargers this spring before the coronavirus pandemic took that away.

"I actually thought we could have gone pretty far in the playoffs," Felicetti said. "A lot of us played in the offseason. We had a few open gyms and everyone was exponentially better. We had a good freshman setter in Matt Tiernan, who had played a lot of club volleyball."

Felicetti said it was disappointing to learn the season was lost.

"It was really depressing," he said. "I obviously thought we had a good team coming back. It was a shock to realize I had played my last volleyball game at Chariho."

Felicetti is now in school from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day. After that he spends time working out in his family's basement, talking to friends over the phone and hiking.

"School has been an easy transition. At Chariho we do most everything on laptops in class," Felicetti said. "So we were pretty well prepared for it.

"But I do miss seeing the same kids that I used to see every day and being able to talk with them."

Felicetti also spends some time, maybe more than some, playing NBA 2K20, a video simulation basketball game. He plays on the same team with his friends and they play against other teams. They can talk with each other through headsets as the game takes place.

"It's pretty fun," Felicetti said.

Felicetti also gets the opportunity to shoot more than he did during his time on the Chariho basketball team.

"I would say that's pretty true — I shoot a lot more. It's my time to shine," he said with a chuckle.

But scoring was not Felicetti's role last basketball season for the Chargers. He ran the team from his point guard position and found open teammates.

He found them so often, in fact, that he finished with 178 assists for the season, the most since at least the 1994-95 season. Before that, assists were not tabulated as a statistic for a number of years by the Chargers.

"My job was to spread the floor and get points for the team," Felicetti said. "I say I have a pretty good basketball IQ. During scrimmages I would realize when and where people would be open, and I was able to apply that to game situations."

Felcetti has a learned a few things during his time at Chariho.

"When I was younger, I used to take losing very hard," he said. "Through my time at Chariho I have learned it is a learning experience and it has helped me develop my character."

Felicetti will attend Stony Brook (N.Y.) University, where he will major in marine sciences. He hopes to be a marine biologist one day. He plans to play on the club volleyball team there that plays against other schools.

But for now, like so many seniors across the country, he's dealing with the loss of the senior traditions like prom, graduation and senior week.

"It's pretty depressing to a point," Felicetti said. "But you realize it's for safety. If one person has it, there is a possibility everyone has it. And then you are going to bring it to your parents. At first I was really bummed, but I realized it was the smart decision.

"Before this started my friends and I used to say it was Class of 2020 vs. the world. This kind of amplifies it. But we've been able to persevere and we will get through it."

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