Norwich Tech volleyball program discovers the winning formula
Old Lyme — It starts at the top, with the husband and wife coaching team of Tim and Deb Krodel, in their 18th season overseeing the volleyball program at Norwich Tech.
They were introduced over the public address system prior to Tuesday's match at Old Lyme and Deb jokingly pretended to punch her husband in the arm. During a second-game timeout, Tim no sooner hit the Warriors' huddle than he had them smiling.
Then comes senior outside hitter Maddie Bodley, all 5-foot-7 of her, who came to Norwich Tech with no knowledge of volleyball or automotive technology and ended up specializing in both. Tim Krodel calls Bodley one of the best players in the Constitution State Conference, if not the best.
Bodley is part of the team's leadership group along with fellow captains Vanessa Gumbs and Lauren Russi.
"Our team, just being there for each other is what brings us together," said junior middle hitter Emily Cherwin. "Our captains, Maddie, Vanessa and Lauren, just to hear that, 'Good job' or 'it's OK (from them)' boosts our spirits. We're beating ourselves up after a mistake."
And the formula works.
Norwich Tech improved its record to 15-3 overall with Tuesday night's 25-18, 25-20, 14-25, 25-11 victory over Old Lyme. The Warriors finished the CSC East 8-0 to earn their second straight division title and will receive a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament next Tuesday. Krodel expects his team to be the top seed.
Norwich Tech was 4-14 in 2014 and 10-10 a year ago.
"It's special to finish with such a good team ... but we have a long way to go with the CSC tournament and states," said Bodley, a two-time All-CSC East pick who had 16 kills and 10 digs against Old Lyme. "Our team improves every year. We had a good team last year and we have an even better team this year."
Bodley, who is from Colchester, said she had "no idea" when she attended her orientation at Norwich Tech as an eighth-grader that she would play volleyball. She met Tim Krodel and a bunch of her friends decided to give volleyball a try. She went to a camp shortly before the season started.
Bodley went from the junior varsity to being in the mix as a varsity setter her freshman year.
"Extremely athletic," Tim Krodel said. "If she would have chosen to play soccer her freshman year, I'm sure she would have been phenomenal at that, too. ... She's very smart and deliberate and calculated with her swings."
The Krodels detailed their captains' personalities, which they describe as in great contrast with one another.
"Vanessa is spiritual; she gets them all fired up," Deb Krodel said. "Maddie is quieter. She just kind of claps and keeps going."
"And Lauren blocks a ton and then says, 'Can we just hug?'" Tim Krodel said with a smile.
Gumbs added 17 points, two aces and 10 digs against Old Lyme, while Cherwin and Russi had three blocks each. For Old Lyme (3-17), Livy Schumacher had three aces and 12 digs, Lexi Duddy five kills and three aces and Marissa Smith 16 assists.
With Norwich Tech leading one game to nothing, Old Lyme's Caroline Sirna served for five straight points to pull the Wildcats within 12-10. Kaitlyn Gifford responded with a service run of her own for Norwich Tech, however, pushing the margin back to 19-10.
Old Lyme, coming off a doubleheader sweep of Creed on Monday and celebrating its senior night against Norwich Tech, served solidly and opened up a 20-13 lead on the way to a game three victory over the Warriors.
Gumbs served out the game four win, though, for Norwich Tech, which filled the open spaces much better than in the third game.
"We've had teams in the past that could lose confidence," Deb Krodel said.
"(Two) years ago they were 4-14 and they kept getting better. Right now, there's some playing experience out there," Tim Krodel said. "I'm actually not all that surprised about their success; my expectations might be too high. Every once in a while Deb tells me, 'Let's not get ahead of ourselves.' We've seen the girls grow."