HARWICH – For the first time in a few years, the Cape Cod Tech girls volleyball team is feeling a sense of stability.
Between the addition of first-year coach Rachel Crooker and a rejuvenated outlook among the players, the Crusaders began the season with a 4-2 record and continue to improve each time they take the floor.
“We had a lot of team issues last year but we have all kind of gotten past that and we’re a lot stronger,” said Hayley Kirker, a sophomore from Dennis. “We all just get along better this year. We just play better now that we’re all closer with each other.”
Crooker has been at the forefront of the team’s makeover. She was a standout for the Dennis-Yarmouth volleyball team before graduating from D-Y and returned to the Cape after recently graduating from UMass Dartmouth.
Although Crooker has spent time officiating summer volleyball leagues in Hyannis, she was determined to fully immerse herself in the community and the opportunity to coach fulfilled her goal.
“When I saw the position was open, it was perfect because I had been trying to figure out a way I could get involved with the community, but it’s also something I’m very passionate about,” Crooker said. “I’ve been coached a lot, but I haven’t really had too much of a chance to coach, so it’s been a good transition coming from being a player.”
Cape Tech’s players have come to realize their new coach is the real deal.
“When we do drills, she demonstrates as herself doing it instead of using us,” said senior co-captain Rayana Guedes, a West Yarmouth resident. “It gives us the confidence that we know she knows what she’s talking about.”
As much as Crooker has helped change the environment surrounding Cape Tech’s volleyball program, the players have also fostered a new culture. It starts with Guedes and her co-captain, junior Ana Rolfe, a Barnstable resident.
“I think we pick each other up a lot more and we let everything go,” Rolfe said when asked how this year’s team is different than previous years. “Last year, we really realized that we never got along and it really affected how we played. This year, we’ve really worked on getting that team bond.”
In addition to getting together to bond as a team, the Crusaders also put in some extra work during the offseason at an August summer camp.
“It was a four-day camp and we went all the way up to Hanover for three hours and everyone had their specific positions that they worked on,” Guedes explained. “Everybody really got to build on their own positions and then we came together to play games at the end, so it was really fun.”
The team’s back-to-back victories over Bristol Aggie last week served as the latest reminder that Cape Tech continues to improve, which has been the aspect of coaching Crooker has enjoyed the most during her debut season.
The Crusaders needed a full five sets to defeat the Chieftains on the road on Sept. 22, but then bounced back for a 3-0 victory at home just two days later.
As the team prepares to move toward the midpoint of its season, Crooker said she’s been thrilled with the season thus far.
“The girls have kind of been in a whirlwind of all of these different aspects and everything, but they have been great accepting me and trying to figure out how to work with me,” she said. “It’s been a great experience so far. I love to see the progress — it’s pretty rewarding when they tell me they did something in a game just like we’ve been practicing.”
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com.