Ten seasons have passed since the Naugatuck volleyball team won the NVL championship in the fall of 1999 under head coach Lisa Green and assistant coach Fred Scheithe.
Naugatuck has been a dominant force over the past decade, since Scheithe took over as head coach in 2000, but the NVL title has been an elusive goal. Woodland head coach Jim Amato got his start as an assistant to Scheithe, and over the past several years Kevin Wesche has served as the Greyhounds assistant coach.
Together, Scheithe and Wesche, who play reversed roles on the Naugatuck softball team, know how to get the most out of the players they coach. In 2008, the Greyhounds won the NVL softball title.
But this volleyball season presents a new scenario for Scheithe. Seven seniors dot the lineup but there are no returning starters. The Greyhounds graduated eight seniors from last year and are off heading in a new direction.
“This is the first time in my entire career that I haven’t had at least one starting player returning,” Scheithe said. “We have seven seniors on the team but only two saw a little varsity time last season. Not because of their abilities, but we had eight seniors last year and that was pretty much our rotation.”
This year’s Greyhounds are led by senior tri-captains Renee Augustine, Daniella Stoehrer and Mikki D’Angelo along with seniors Laticia Campos, Stephanie Chandler, Darcey Case and Kaitlyn Fiorenzi.
“Renee and Daniella were the JV captains last season and Mikki was the JV setter,” Scheithe said. “Laticia didn’t play her junior year, as her family moved to Brazil. They moved back for her senior year, and she is a welcome addition to the front row.”
Joining the rotation are juniors Lauren Andreoli and Courtney Quarles along with sophomore Sarah Chandler.
Naugatuck is growing up fast this season in spite of the lack of varsity experience. The Hounds began the season with 3-0 sweeps of Wilby and Crosby. That allowed them some time to get their feet wet.
Now they are in the middle of a stretch that will have them facing five of the top teams in the league over the next two weeks. A 3-0 shutout loss to Woodland brought them back to reality.
Last week they struggled in a 3-1 loss to Ansonia but beat Holy Cross 3-1 two days later. The girls will face Torrington, Seymour and Wolcott on Thursday, Friday, and Monday, respectively.
“We are growing up fast,” Scheithe said. “I think the team really came together in the third game of the match with Ansonia when we trailed two games to none.”
D’Angelo went on an extended run sparked by the front row play of Fiorenzi and Campos to give Naugatuck its first lead at 11-7 during the Ansonia match.
The Greyhounds looked like a different team that had dropped the first two games by scores of 18-25 and 12-25. Augustine took up the first setter spot and things began to come together.
Ansonia battled back to keep it close until Andreoli came on to serve and rattled off a run to put Naugatuck on top 19-15. The Chargers closed to within one as they looked for the sweep but Stephanie Chandler delivered a crucial service winner and then hit a side out kill to give the serve back to Naugatuck.
Campos served up game point as the Greyhounds escaped with a hard-fought 25-23 win. In game four Naugatuck was playing more as a team and Ansonia was having trouble fending them off. The Chargers eventually hung on for a slim 25-23 win, but the Hounds had served notice.
“That match really showed them that they could compete,” Scheithe said. “It gave them confidence going into Holy Cross and they were just unbelievable.”
Naugatuck stunned Holy Cross in a five game classic. The Crusaders took game one, 25-20, and game four, 25-23. Naugatuck escaped with game two, 25-2,3 and game three, 26-24, setting up a showdown in game five. The Hounds were victorious by a 15-9 margin.
“Daniella said the feeling was just incredible and she wants to keep that feeling, as the rest of her teammates,” Scheithe said.
Naugatuck was staring down the barrel of an 11-1 deficit in game one when Scheithe got all over them.
“I told them they were playing scared. It was the first time this season that I got all over them and challenged them. They responded and we came back strong. That carried over into the next two games,” he said.
Naugatuck came out of a timeout at game point, and Stoehrer riffled an ace down the sidelines for the 25-23 win in game two. In game three the Hounds were again at game point with Holy Cross in serve, and this time Campos came to the rescue, firing a kill at the net for a 26-24 win.
In game five there was no stopping the confident Greyhounds as they pulled away by a 15-9 margin. That victory over Holy Cross may very well set the tone for the remainder of the season.