Former standout spiker Chabot returns to Hawks’ bench

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Woodland assistant volleyball coach Lexie Chabot, center, shows off the clipboard gifted to her by the team along with captains, from left, Emma Liscomb, Lindsay Koliani, Ava Bianchini and Erin Donnelly. (Kyle Brennan photo)

BEACON FALLS — Does Lexie Chabot, the former Woodland volleyball standout, still love the feeling of spiking a ball toward the defense waiting — sometimes helplessly — on the other side of the net?

“Oh, hell yeah,” Chabot said. “Getting a kill, there’s nothing like that feeling. I swear when I was up at the net, and even now when I swing, I black out for a second.”

Five years since her last competitive volleyball match as a Hawk, Chabot is back to swinging in black and gold — but just in practice.

The recent biomedical engineering graduate from the University of Hartford is in her first season as an assistant coach at Woodland, where she was a member of the class of 2019. In her volleyball career, she was a two-time all-division performer who as a senior led the Naugatuck Valley League in aces (72) and kills (203).

She kept tabs on the team whenever she had spare time at Hartford and even helped coach at the occasional summer camp. Those relationships compelled her to ask head coach Jim Amato to come to tryouts, a visit which turned into a coaching gig.

“I love this sport; I always have and I always will,” Chabot said. “If I can’t play it anymore, I’m going to help the people who can.”

She’s guided the Hawks to a 17-3 record, good for the No. 2 seed in the NVL tournament and likely set up for another run in the Class M state tournament. Amato said Chabot’s addition to a coaching staff that includes longtime assistants Chris Tomlin and Jenna Broadbent has been key to the team’s success.

“Besides being one extra set of eyes, she’s brought energy and enthusiasm about the game and our program,” Amato said. “She knows what we’re all about and she wants to help these girls get to the next level. The verve she brings has been very important to what we’ve been able to do this season.”

The team feels the same way according to junior Lindsay Koliani, whose sister, Allyson, was a sophomore on the volleyball team when Chabot was a senior.

“She’s amazing,” Koliani said of the new assistant coach. “She’s so relatable because she’s been in our position.”

“She sees the smaller details in us instead of looking at us as a whole team,” junior Ava Bianchini added. “She nitpicks us to help us individually grow. She brings this youth to the team that inspires us more.”

Some of that youth is on display when Chabot hits the court during practice. She’s following a tradition of volleyball alumna coaches participating in drills started by Broadbent, a 2006 graduate who played under Amato and Tomlin when they assisted Rob Schumann.

“When I started coaching, Amato would sometimes tell me at practice, ‘You’re the only one serving today,’” Broadbent recalled. “Why do you think we’re always a pretty good serve receive team? They have us serving against them. How else are they going to get better unless you face good serves?”

And according to Amato, Chabot checks off that box.

“She’s a nasty server and she can hit the ball,” Amato said. “The girls love when she serves at them.”

“When I’m playing against them, I’m trying to play my best so they can get better,” said Chabot, occasionally glancing at a finger swollen from a recent practice. “The goal is to break them down here so they’re better when they get out there.”

Amato thinks that players like Chabot and Broadbent return to the bench because “they’ve left their legacy behind, but they want to continue the momentum of it.” Chabot’s here partly because she wants to inspire confidence in players the way Amato did for her.

“I remember when we were in a rut, I’d be standing there and Amato would whistle and call my name across the court,” Chabot said. “He’d just point and say, ‘It’s your time to show up.’ I’d help us dig out of the rut. That gave me the confidence and I got it done.”

As for her favorite part of her rookie year, she doesn’t point to wins or practice spikes or even the sparkly pink clipboard gifted to her by the players.

“The relationships I’ve created with every single girl,” Chabot said. “They’re a riot.”