Warriors seek bigger, better things in 2014
By DAN BYRNE
WAKEFIELD — With the fall semester now in full swing at Wakefield Memorial High School, the time has also arrived for some fall sports to get their seasons underway. One of the newest sports programs is the varsity volleyball program, in its second season led by head coach Nicole Trudeau.
This year coach Trudeau is joined on the sidelines by Meghan O’Connell, who adds the titles of varsity assistant and JV volleyball coach to her resume of WMHS coaching jobs. O’Connell also serves as the girls’ basketball head coach during the winter and varsity assistant and JV girls’ lacrosse coach in the spring.
Lisa Silva is also on board this season, lending a hand with the JV II squad this year.
From an outside perspective, the volleyball program is just in the budding stage of development. Coach Trudeau mentioned some of the disadvantages to being such a new program saying, “Volleyball is very new in this region. The best teams in the league have had programs for 20 plus years and have athletes who start playing before middle school. All of the girls in our program started playing as freshmen.”
But when Coach Trudeau spoke about her expectations for this year’s team, there is no doubt they intend to disrupt some people’s perception about how the Middlesex League volleyball season will turn out, “I have committed myself to continuing to raise the bar for these girls. We are setting measurable and achievable goals.”
“I promised them I was not going to go easy on them. We go as hard as we can for 2.5 hours every single day. That has already started paying off with our scrimmage victories and the season opener against Woburn.
“These kids have paid their dues. They’ve done the work, know the game, and are expecting great things from one another. I told the girls that as the newest team in the league, we are not expected to do much. We can’t wait to take everyone by surprise.”
She continued by saying, “I set an expectation that the girls would need to come back ready to play in top shape.”
To that end, there were some promising developments over the offseason from Coach Trudeau’s perspective.
“The majority of the girls made offseason play a priority,” Trudeau said. “I think it’s important for any athlete in any sport to realize this — playing in the offseason is what you do to give yourself an edge over the competition. You either love the game and play it as much as possible, or you accept that the athlete who is playing all the time may surpass you.”
With volleyball very much a sport on the rise in this area, there are a host of summer pickup leagues, camps and small group training programs available for the girls to hone their skills in the off season. Coach Trudeau is pleased with rise in popularity of those programs and she is excited that for the first time there were Wakefield girls getting involved.
“It was really exciting to see how many middle school and incoming freshmen were playing before the season even started,” Trudeau said about the offseason.
However, as of a couple weeks ago, Coach Trudeau’s job of molding her team into a competitive Middlesex League squad from August to the end of October had begun.
“Preseason was intense,” she said. “Since the tryouts started on Aug. 21, our girls have been practicing double sessions.”
It would be an understatement to say the newest varsity sport at Wakefield is growing in popularity, as coach Trudeau said, “We had nearly 60 athletes tryout for 32 spots from the freshman to varsity levels.”
But nothing has pleased the coach more than the commitment her girls have made to improving.
“Our juniors and senior captain stuck it out and committed to a program that had to endure growing pains,” she said. “For three years, those girls gave much more than their sweat and time, they gave their hearts.”
The coach warned her players that they would be facing a push from younger players soon, “When we wrapped the season last year, I told them they had to fight because there is a ton of competition from the sophomore and freshmen classes.”
But the coach is happy with her teams attitude and drive to become successful, “We have a great group of tenacious kids,” the coach said.
“They all want to be on the floor and there are only six players at a time. Practices can get pretty exciting with that mindset. At the same time, we have a very close knit program. They understand that it’s not the best players who win, it’s the players who play the best together. Our team motto this year is “Respect All, Fear None.”
The tangible evidence that all the hard work the kids are putting in became clear early on this season. This year the team hosted a JV Jamboree and Coach Trudeau was excited by the result,” our kids came out on top!”
“We started a tradition this year of keeping the kids through on the last day of preseason for team building after practice and before our scrimmage,” she added, “It was a great day and really pulled the girls together.”
In a fundraising effort the volleyball team hopes to create a bit of fashion buzz this year as well with the sale of Wakefield Warrior head bands available at home games throughout the year.
With an eye towards developing players for the future, the team will be hosting a middle school volleyball league on Saturday mornings beginning, Saturday, Sept. 20. The league is open to individuals and teams from public and private schools in Wakefield and beyond.
The most interesting, important, and impressive activity the volleyball team will be participating in this season is the team’s Go Gold game, scheduled for later this month. The aim is to fill the stands with gold and gold clad fans all in an effort to benefit Pediatric Cancer Awareness month. It is a bright idea for a great cause that hopefully will expand beyond the one volleyball game, with hopefully some other fall programs taking the initiative and following suit to raise awareness.
The team’s 18 game regular season schedule began on Monday with a trip to Woburn. The Warriors were able to notch their first win of the year, claiming victory 3-2. It was the program’s first varsity victory ever after going 0-18 overall and 0-16 in the M.L. Freedom division.
Wakefield claimed the first two sets, before the Tanners came back and took the next two sets with the game on the line. However, the final set went to the Warriors as they claimed their first victory of the season.
Starting four sophomores out of six players, there is no question the warriors have a solid core of young talent. That has coach Trudeau excited.
“The sophomore class is incredible,” Trudeau said, “[They] really took off in the offseason. They have really come in ready to impress — their sport IQ is remarkable.”
Against Woburn, sophomores Emma Butler, Adanna Badgett, and Sarrah Chouiakh led the way to victory. Butler was impressive leading the team in kills, while Badgett had multiple four and five point runs from serve. Chouiakh is the team’s libero, and according to coach Trudeau. she was digging everything all over the court en route to the first win of the year.
The volleyball home opener is Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Charbonneau Field House as the team welcomes Lexington for its second match of the year.