After 26 years coaching the Barnstable girls’ volleyball squad, coach Tom Turco has learned to ask the right questions.
“I’m curious, what drives you as a team?’’ he asks his girls at the beginning of the season.
And after 10 minutes of conversation, this year’s group came up with a goal that has been carrying the top-ranked Red Raiders to the tournament year after year — win a state championship. If accomplished, it would be Barnstable’s 16th title.
“Our goals drive us,’’ his girls answer and for Turco, this has been key in building the Barnstable dynasty.
“If everyone did that the journey, it would be easier. It happens to work for us but how can you go wrong when you spend 15 hours a season talking about teamwork,’’ said Turco.
“The proof is in the pudding,’’ he said.
And that’s how it starts, that, combined with one of the toughest schedules around.
“When the players make their own goals, it’s basically our job, the coach’s job, to try and get them to their goals. First and foremost, it’s what they want,’’ said Turco.
“It gives you an avenue of communication and an opportunity to talk and listen to players,’’ he said.
This mantra has equated to great success during Turco’s 564-53 run at Barnstable and this year is no different with an unbeaten 16-0 squad that comes after graduating a large chunk of the Red Raiders offense.
“Our team is working well together and we have the mind set we can do anything, even without the seniors we graduated. We can make up for that,’’ said Red Raiders senior captain Stephanie Martin.
“Kayla Crook had set three state championships. It’s a big concern because before you can hit, you need setting,’’ said Turco.
Junior Olivia Brodt trained by Crook’s side and her dedication paid off. Brodt is the leading setter in the state as a junior with 10.5 assists per game.
“She came in in really great physical condition and great motivation. She’s the first step in helping our offense,’’ said Turco.
After graduating 80 percent of his kill production, his hitters were the next step.
Seniors Hannah Andres, Ciara Bruning, and Colleen Kenney took care of that. Andres (184 kills), Bruning (166), and Kenney (123) have loaded the Red Raiders stat book and have “gotten the job done thus far,’’ said Turco.
This trio may not have height to their advantage, “I can actually see over the huddle this year,’’ Turco joked, “but they’re very athletic and quick. We’re hitting from the outside now and have a more diverse offense,’’ he said.
With the setting and offense in check and the drive to win, the Red Raiders have the traits of a winning team, not to mention their defense was already one of the best in the state.
Martin, a four-year starter, leads the team with 250 digs, only 20 of those errors. She shares receiving the serve duties with Andres, totaling 507 of the team’s 652 receptions.
“When you pass the ball in system, it’s a huge difference. If you can control the serve, you can control the game,’’ said Turco. Andres and Martin are also joined by junior Nicole Derosier (91 digs).
“There’s chemistry in the back row because the defense sees everything,’’ said Martin.
“Then you get the players like Holly Wilson who come in and get huge production from the service line,’’ said Turco.
Rightside hitter Liz Gorrill comes up with key plays like the double block that was the second to last point in the big 3-1 win over second-ranked Notre Dame of Hingham on Wednesday.
“She’s a good blocker and got the job done in a crucial time,’’ said Turco. She is accompanied by sophomore Madison Sollows (35 blocks).
The Notre Dame (Hingham) matchup was the start of a challenging end to the season, with No. 3 Medfield and 12th-ranked North Quincy matches remaining.
“It’s part of the package. We know that our players anticipate this when they get together they set standards and goals high,’’ said Turco.
“Anybody that wants to play, we’ll play,’’ he said.
Martin has spent the past four years learning from coach Turco and to her, “he’s a good mentor he knows how to work around other teams and what to expect. He knows what he’s doing and he’s good at it,’’ she said.
When asked about a possible 16th state championship, Turco said, “If we’re good enough, ask me then.’’
As for Martin and her fourth straight appearance in the state tournament, “I think to myself, I’m not going in thinking we’re going to win but that we work hard for what we deserve.’’
Games of the Week
No. 3 Medfield at No. 1 Barnstable, Tue., 5:30p.m. — The unbeaten Barnstable squad swept Medfield on Oct. 1 with Hannah Andres and Colleen Kenney’s combined 28 kills. Olivia Brodt recorded 39 assists and Stephanie Martin had 21 digs in that match.
No. 5 Melrose at No. 7 Newton North, Wed., 4 p.m.– Melrose has saved one of its toughest matchups for last with Newton North being its last test before the postseason. Melrose’s only loss this season was to No. 4 Bishop Fenwick, 3-1, on Sept. 16.
No. 1 Barnstable at No. 12 North Quincy, Wed., 5 p.m. – These two programs will be reunited for the first time this season in a 20-plus year rivalry. In their last three matchups since the 2010-2011 season, Barnstable has swept in straight sets.