In this week’s Coach’s Corner, Naugatuck volleyball coach Fred Scheithe spoke about the process of rebuilding, that all coaches face at one time or another.
The Greyhounds came into the season having to replace all six starters from last year’s team and the daunting task fell on the shoulders of 13-year veteran Scheithe, nine-year assistant coach Kevin Wesche, and first-year freshman coach Shannon (Mesaros) Russell.
Scheithe was a 10-year assistant to Lisa Green, under whom the Greyhounds last won the Naugatuck Valley League title back in 1998. He took over the reins in 1999 and saw his team win the NVL tournament in 2001 and 2003.
Four of his players—Bridget Squires, Kristin Boisvert, Shannon Mesaros and Alana Wesche—have earned All-State honors. But never in all his years on the sidelines has Scheithe entered a season with the cupboards so bare.
“We knew we were getting a good group of athletes,” Scheithe said. “The only thing that was lacking was experience at the varsity level. My first concern was how quickly they would jell and get into that comfort zone. Some of these girls really excelled at the junior varsity level but were a little intimidated when they got into a varsity match.”
After he helped his team settle in, Scheithe started forming the floor plan.
“My second concern was trying to develop an effective front row,” Scheithe said. “Traditionally we never really had a lot of height at the net. So with that being said we try and focus on playing defense but that can only take you so far. A few years back in the state tournament the Trumbull coach told me that we were the best defensive team he faced, and they play in the FCIAC.”
Scheithe’s commitment to developing a front row has paid off.
“We do have five girls this year—Courtney Quarles, Sarah Chandler, Lauren Andreoli, Cataysia Brown and Ashley Whitney—who can effectively play the front row,” Scheithe said.
Naugatuck came out of the blocks and stunned a very competitive Holy Cross team in the season opener, winning a 3-2 decision. The Greyhounds then pinned a loss on Torrington, and heads were turning in the NVL.
The quick progress that this team has made can be related to the experience of the coaching staff with Wesche taking the junior varsity and Russell guiding the freshmen.
“Both Kevin and Shannon have been an integral part as to why we got off to a good start with little experience on the court,” Scheithe said. “Most teams we play against have a middle school volleyball program. So when our freshmen take the court they are playing against girls that have a couple of years under their belt. Shannon is a former all-state and collegiate player. Her knowledge of the game has helped the younger girls step right in and feel comfortable.”
Scheithe also credits his annual volleyball camp for helping the team mature quicker.
“I began running a volleyball camp in the summer during my first year as head coach,” Scheithe said. “That really helped the girls in seventh, eighth, and ninth grades become familiar with the sport. We average close to 40 girls a year and most of them come back for all four years of high school. That has been a big benefit for the varsity program as the girls have improved their skills each year and that is probably one of the reasons why we have progressed the way we have this year.”
The Greyhounds are 5-7 with six matches to play. There is a possibility, if the ‘Hounds win four of the last six, that they will exceed all expectations and qualify for the state tournament.
“I think the biggest surprise this year is coming out of the first half of the season tied for the Copper Division,” Scheithe said.
Friday will be the first of what hopes to be many celebrations this season as the Greyhounds will host Crosby for senior night.
“I think no matter how the rest of this season pans out, I think a successful season would be viewed if we are playing better as a team than we did on the first day of practice,” Scheithe said. “The second sign of a successful season will be if the girls had fun because no matter how much we as coaches get wrapped up in wins and losses it’s really about the girls having fun and making memories and friendships to last a lifetime.”
Coach’s Corner is a semi-regular feature that will turn the spotlight on a local coach.