New boys volleyball program making big strides at NCHS
New Canaan High School's boys' volleyball program has come a long way in a short time. There was no program two years ago, and a club/ junior varsity team with 17 players last year. And now there are varsity and junior varsity programs loaded with 22 enthusiastic players.
What's more, the young, fairly inexperienced Rams nearly pulled out a win in one of the games in their first varsity match, falling just 25-22 in the second game of a 3-0 setback to Fairfield Warde in the April 4 opener.
"I'm super excited. I'm really enthusiastic that there was such support when we were a JV program," said Coach Katie Bakes, who has coached with the New Canaan girls' program for three years and was asked by NCHS Athletic Director Jay Egan if she would be willing to coach the boys.
Bakes coached the club/ JV squad last season and has been pleasantly surprised about how quickly the program has grown and gotten to the varsity level. She credits senior captains Zach Edwards and Nick White for getting the club team off the ground, and for pushing the program to varsity status.
"Those two are the reason there is New Canaan volleyball," said Bakes, adding that they met with Egan and generates support and interest in the program from peers. "They really pulled it together."
"[Egan] has been so great with letting us have the opportunity to prove ourselves," she said, recalling that he told the team members that if there was enough interest in the club team they could soon make it a varsity team. After 26 prospective players showed up to a program meeting in the wintertime, and following a season at the club/ JV level, it became clear it was time to institute a varsity squad.
"They've been working really hard to become a legitimate program," Bakes said. "They want to be taken seriously."
The lineup features several completely new to the sport players, including those who have switched sports. Several of the team members are returnees from a year ago, although not all of last year's JV/ club players returned.
Edwards is a setter, and White is a right side and outside hitter. Other seniors on the team are outside hitter Matt Kinney, middle hitter Nick Depuy, middle hitter Connor Allsteadt, right side hitter Zach Wojdula. Juniors are outside hitter Keith Griffin, middle hitter/ back row player Kevin Hall and middle back row hitter Chris Gutierrez. Sophomore outside hitter/ setter Isaac Fishman and freshman middle hitter Tyler Edwards round out the roster.
The Rams know they have their work cut out being a new team in a tough conference. The FCIAC boasts some of the top teams in the state, Bakes notes. But the coach has goals for individual players and the team overall.
"I want them to really learn to play as a team, how to cover, how to hit well, and communicate," Bakes said.