New Varsity Volleyball Ready to Roll

Published in the September 3, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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Talk about beginners' luck. First-year varsity programs at Nashoba Regional High School are on a roll, with field hockey, boys' lacrosse and girls' lacrosse all qualifying for postseason play in their rookie seasons.

Will varsity volleyball, which debuts this fall, extend the streak? Head coach Leah Sutton doesn't see why not.

“Making the tournament is a good goal for us,” Sutton said. “I think we can do it—I really do. My calendar is open in the beginning of November. I haven't scheduled anything, just in case.”

Sutton, an art teacher at Nashoba, has been crafting the Chieftain volleyball program since being named head coach of the inaugural junior varsity team in the summer of 2007. That team won its second match, on the road over St. Peter-Marian, and finished the season one game under .500.

“It was a learning year for us,” Sutton said. “But we were very confident by the end of the season. We had a great sense of community on the team.”

That camaraderie should carry over to this season, as all but one of the players from a year ago will be back this fall, either on varsity or JV. And Sutton is looking forward to spending more time coaching and less time teaching players basic skills.

But the learning will continue. Whereas last year's JV team primarily used a 4-2 formation (with two designated setters and four hitters), this year's varsity team will be experimenting with the 5-1 (one designated setter, five hitters) and 6-2 (all six players can be hitters, and two of the six can also be setters) formations in order to better compete with more versatile opponents.

Leading the charge will be varsity tri-captains, Rebecca Krantz of Stow, Alee Wade, and Laura Millet.

“Laura is the most vocal, Alee is the most positive, and Rebecca really leads by example,” Sutton said. “The girls all voted on the captains, but those are the three I would have picked.”

Stow sophomores Cole Gibson and Chelcie Martin should also figure prominently on the varsity squad. Gibson honed her setting skills on last year's JV team and is much stronger this fall, Sutton said. Martin excelled on the cross-country and track teams last year but made the tough decision to try a new sport this fall. What Martin lacked in experience she made up for in athleticism and the ability to learn quickly—qualities that earned her a varsity position. Martin missed some practice time with a minor ankle injury but should be available for the start of the season, Sutton said.

Stow representatives on the JV squad include sophomore captain Linnea Kennison, fellow sophomores Katie Savino and Kelleigh Maroney, and freshman Cassandra Campana. The junior varsity team will be coached by Paulo Alzate, a former collegiate player from Colombia who was the Chieftains' assistant coach last season.

The coaches' goals for the season go beyond wins and losses. Both former players, Sutton and Alzate know that volleyball can be a very physical game, and one that can take a toll on bones and joints.

“One of my expectations is just to not lose anyone to injury,” Sutton said.

To that end, she conducted a four-day conditioning camp prior to starting practices this summer, emphasizing what players can do to lower their risk of injury. In addition, the Chieftains' daily warm-ups include extra stretching and yoga-inspired exercises, focusing in particular on the upper body and shoulders.

The Chieftains' first-ever varsity volleyball match will be on Monday, at home against Leominster. The JV teams will play at 3:30 pm, varsity at 4:30 pm.

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239