By SHAWN COURCHESNE, firstname.lastname@example.org, The Hartford Courant
The six seniors on RHAM-Hebron’s girls volleyball team have only known success in their careers — the Sachems are the four-time defending state Class M champions..
But coach Tim Guernsey is making sure there’s one thing those seniors know, a matter he says keeps complacency after years of success from creeping in.
While they may have been part of the title runs, the glory is not theirs.
“I think the one thing that I do well is making sure our groups are humble,” Guernsey said. “One of the things that we have been preaching for the last four years is that each year is that senior group’s state title. We graduated two girls last year and that was their state title. I have six seniors this year, that, nothing for nothing, they haven’t accomplished anything as a senior group. They’ve had the pleasure of being part of something, but it’s not theirs. This season is theirs and what they make of it is how they’ll leave their legacy.”
The RHAM lineup is anchored behind senior setter Laura Smolinski (711 assists in 2010) and sophomore outside hitter Sarah Veilleux (159 kills).
Behind them is senior outside hitter Alicia Tripoli (204 digs, 108 kills), senior right side hitter Kelsey Kirkpatrick (157 kills) and senior libero Kara Trippel (346 digs), last year’s Class M final MVP.
“I feel very fortunate,” Guernsey said. “I have good kids and I’ve been fortunate to have really good athletes and kids that are committed to what we’re doing. There’s a lot schools out there that have great athletes but kids aren’t committed to getting better. I have kids that are committed and buy into what I’m saying and I feel very fortunate for that.”
In 10 years at RHAM, Guernsey has built a program from scratch and guided it into being Class M’s dominant force.
“That first year, we played 18 games, all of them away, and we were 0-18,” Guernsey said. “I had some athletes, but back then I knew nothing about the game. I was a teacher at the school and the athletic director asked me if I would give volleyball a try and I said sure.
“Kids are interested in the sport now. Ten years ago when we started the program there was nothing there. Each year, I’m getting more and more. We have 15 freshmen trying out this year. There’s definitely a buzz in town. Kids want to play and we’re packing the house. The buzz is there around school as far as wanting to see games. Kids are definitely interested and committed now. They put a lot of time in in the offseason getting better at what they’re doing. That’s exactly what you need to be successful.”
During its four-year title run, RHAM has lost only one game in the finals, three of which were against Barlow-Redding. Barlow lost 3-0 in 2007 and ’09 and 3-1 last year. In the 2008 finals, RHAM blanked Law-Milford, 3-0.
Guernsey said last year’s title run helped harden many of this year’s players.