Cali Jolley a three sport four-year standout

Cali Jolley was a three-sport standout each of her four years in high school.

Cali Jolley was a three-sport standout each of her four years in high school.

David G Whitham / For Hearst Connecticut Media

On the softball diamond, she could move fluently to either her right or left and make the accurate throw; on the basketball court, she was one of the leaders of the fast break and could knock down away short-range jumpers or take the ball all the way in; as a freshman, she was convinced to join the girls swimming team and would eventually, because of her early training in gymnastics, become the teams' diver.

When Cali Jolley joined her over 300 classmates back on June 7 and crossed the stage at Jonathan Law's commencement to receive her degree, she left behind an assembly-line of athletic memories in earning four letters each in three sports.

A milestone moment of that career came on a Monday in late May when her bunt single in a Southern Connecticut Conference first-round playoff game against Lauralton Hall gave her the school career record for base hits with, at that time, 133. That surpassed the mark previously held by Melissa Nelson (2006-2009), ironically, also a shortstop for the Lady Lawmen.

Jolley had chased the record for most of the 2019 season, after collecting her 100th hit in a 10-4 win over city rival Foran back on April 3.

"Up until I got that hit (my 100th), I was completely unaware of the school record," Jolley said. "It really wasn't that important. I'd rather have won games; gone deep in the tournament and have fun with my teammates."

Part of a small group of seniors (five in all), Jolley's team made the SCCs for the first time in her career. And, this senior group, had never beaten Foran twice in one season. "I'd never experienced a win over them on their home field," Joley said.

Jolley played during one of the best recent four-year periods for girls’ sports at Law.

The softball teams she played on finished with a 49-42record (.538 winning percentage) while making it to the state semifinals once (2018) and the quarters (this year); the basketball squads compiled a 48-43 mark and made the state quarterfinals in both her junior and senior years.

Jolley concluded her softball year going 35-for-85 (.411) average while scoring 27 runs and driving in 18. Law was knocked out of the Class L tourney by Seymour, 3-1. Her four-year hit total eventually reached 136. In her four seasons on the diamond, Jolley collected close to 300 assists, a school record.

Jolley’s sisters, Maddy, who will be a junior and Paige an incoming freshman, will be there for coach Melanie Blude, who in 15 seasons has put together a 185-149 record (.552).

"It's hard to think ahead,"Blude said. "And, in many ways, not good to do. But I know I'll be looking at Dave (assistant coach Dave Mills) and saying, 'Oh boy, the poor kid who's got to replace Cali at short. She's got some big shoes to fill."

California girl

Jolley arrived in Milford as a five-year old from San Diego, Calif and had already found her way to gymnastics. Softball and basketball were soon to follow. She arrived at Law in the fall of 2015 and soon met, Blude who had become the Law girls' swim coach.

"I told her that most of the softball players swam in the fall to stay in shape,"Blude said. "It wasn't exactly true (only three did). But I convinced her. She was such a good athlete that I knew she'd be an asset to the team."

Being a native Californian, Jolley knew a few things about water. She competed in the 50 and 100 freestyle before becoming a diver. Blude left her swim coaching position the following year.

"It seems funny now," Blude said. "I got her on the team, then I left."

Jolley's first knowledge of high school softball came as an eighth grader.

"My coach there told me that Law had just about every position taken when I was going to become a freshman," she said. "He did tell me, however, that right field was open, so I became determined that I would become the teams' right fielder as a freshman."

Little did Jolley know that the teams' regular shortstop, Cassidy Boath, would tear her ACL and Jolley would move right in as a first-year player. When Boath returned, she was moved to second.

"Cali has one of the quickest first steps I've seen for an infielder," Blude said. "She was a natural at the position. She has great range. Once she established herself there (at short), we gave her the green light. We told her any ball that she could get to, she could go for. We didn't put any fences around her."

Jolley loved the position.

"You have to be a decision maker," she said. "But you can't wait for the ball to be hit to decide what you're going to do. You need to know beforehand."

With her speed, she became the teams' lead-off hitter.

"She's a small kid with very good power," Blude said. "She has always put every ounce of strength she has into hitting a ball."

Early on, Blude knew that Jolley would go on to set the record.

"The nicest thing is, she never put that record or herself in front of the team winning," Blude said. "The team always came first. She was always an easy kid to coach. One with a pleasant personality. She brought so much to this team. She elevated other kids. We found ourselves playing the game the way it was supposed to be played.”

On the Hardcourt

Jolley joined forces with classmates Samara Thacker and Fallon Andreolas on coach Dan Young's basketball team. She finished with over 900 points on a squad led in scoring by Andreolas, who hit the 1,000 mark this past season.

"In basketball, we kept getting better each year," Jolley said. "I believe that we created a positive situation and were able to maintain a reputation here in basketball. It's one that the underclassman can now try to uphold.”

After weighing over her college choices (she thought about going back to California to San Diego State), Jolley has decided on UConn, where she will major in exercise science.

"I want to someday be able to help people," she said. "But not as a doctor. I'm not the type to perform surgeries."

Leaving Law, Cali is convinced, will be a difficult change in life.

"You put in all this hard work," she said. "You fall into a routine. Then, it all changes. It is sad to leave, but also exciting to be able to focus on my future."