Head coach Pam Thomas walked confidently along the sideline of the new gym at Duxbury High School, watching the players finish up their last day of tryouts before girls’ volleyball season gets into full swing.
The Dragons are entering just their fourth season as a varsity program, and it’s been a fairly smooth, and successful, transition.
Since that first season in 2011, Duxbury is 47-17 overall, and has earned a spot in the state postseason tournament each year.
“I had very high expectations right off the bat,” said Thomas, who has been at the helm from the beginning. “When I started coaching them, I coached them as if they were already a varsity team.
“It was tough on them the first year, learning a new sport and trying to reach different levels of success,” she added. “They responded fantastically, and look where they are now.”
The reigning Patriot League champs, the Dragons went 18-0 during the regular season last year before making a run at the Division 2 South title. Their 20-1 season ended with a 3-0 loss in the sectional final to Notre Dame Academy of Hingham.
For the eight seniors, this season marks the end of the an incredible run that helped build the program from nonexistent to a regional power.
“I love these girls,” she said of her senior group. “I’ve watched them grow up and grow into their own as young women, and I have seen them develop friendships on the court. It has been incredibly rewarding.”
Mackenzie Bright and Catherine Harrison, entering their second season as team captains, have been with the varsity squad since freshman year.
“It means a lot to us,” said Bright, referring to Harrison and fellow senior Cara Vetsch, who will also be earning her fourth varsity letter this season. “It is special to us that we got to build this program from day one.”
Molly Quilty and Sam Chaisson, both returning Patriot League all-stars, along with fellow seniors Rachel Tierney, Kitty Hunter, and Olivia Ivanof, are also looking to leave their mark.
“Personally, I want to be remembered as being part of the group that started this team that led to many more successful teams in the future,” said Harrison.
“Everybody has seen the success, and people want to be a part of that.”
Bright, an outside hitter, is coming off of a superb junior campaign in which she tallied 105 aces and 160 kills, earning Globe All-Scholastic honors.
Before high school, she, along with many other girls in town, lacked exposure to the sport. But they were curious to try something new, Bright said, reflecting back on attending a volleyball camp as an eighth-grader.
“It was exactly that. We heard there was a new program coming to Duxbury and we said ‘why not?’ It worked out, I loved it,” Bright said.
Harrison, a right-side hitter, previously played soccer.
“I had never played volleyball before eighth grade,” she said. “Volleyball clicked right away for me, and I knew I wanted to play in high school.”
The introduction of volleyball in Duxbury did not come with high expectations.
“We didn’t really expect to do so well ourselves, but once we did, we kept working,” said Harrison. “It feels like the program has been here forever.”
Their coach credits her squad for the growing level of interest in town for playing the sport.
“These girls have been phenomenal both in their character and their enthusiasm for sports in general,” said Thomas. “We have even started a middle school program that will help feed into the high school team.”
When the program transitioned from intramural to varsity in 2011, there was enough interest generated at tryouts to also carry freshman and junior varsity teams.
Thomas credited a great deal of the success to her staff: varsity assistant and junior varsity coach Steve Koelbel, and freshman coach Mollie O’Hara, along with Sharon Pisani, who coaches at the middle school level.
Thanks to their dedication, the Dragons are up to the task.
“I hope people are gunning for us,” said Bright. “That means we have done our job.”
And again this fall, she and her teammates have their eye on the Division 2 South sectional title.
“We don’t want to lose in that gym for the third year in a row,” said Bright, referring to Pembroke High, site of the South final. “I think if we pull together and do what we know we can do, we will do well.”
“Obviously it would be awesome to go to the sectional final and get a win,” added Harrison. “But mainly I think we want to do the best that we can, and put our potential into action.”