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The Yankee Express

First Year Coach Looking to Make Changes

By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer

Last fall as the Oxford varsity volleyball team was earning a spot in the State Tournament, Morgan Button was the Pirates JV Coach. Although Oxford made it into the tournament the squad had a bus ride home in silence after falling in the first round.  The Pirates found themselves ranked 36th last year and when the rankings come out for the first time this year the new varsity coach is hoping that her team finds a home somewhere in the teens.
Currently, under the new coach the girls are playing phenomenal volleyball and find themselves with a 7-1 record at the time of this writing. The team’s only loss came at the hands of Millbury as the Pirates ventured through the Southern Worcester County League (SWCL) for the first time. Being one game away from being undefeated Oxford is very eager to avenge that loss when the two schools meet up for the second time later this year.
Having previously coached the JV team Button was rather familiar with the team that she was taking over. The first-time varsity coach knew what she was getting in terms of players and had an inkling that they’d be good, but never in her wildest dreams did she think they’d be this good right away.
 “Coming in I really wanted to change the culture and attitude of this team, there was a bit of negativity last year,” Button said. “It really wasn’t hard because the athletes were the ones that wanted o change for the better.”
Having three strong seniors, who have basically been playing volleyball together since the eighth grade on the junior varsity team Button couldn’t have asked for better ambassadors to turn this team around. 
Senior captains Angelica Kopec (middle), Kylee Karnes (libero) and Kaila Donahue (weakside) took the coaches philosophy and ran with it, spreading the word to all 29 players on both programs.
The coach is very confident in Kopec’s play at the net, while she knows that Donahue can be relied upon to put forth a competitive play game in and game out. While her other two captains are talented, Karnes seems to be a step or two above them in terms of her skill level.
 “Kylee is one of the best libero’s I have ever seen in Central Mass and the teams we play are recognizing that two. After each match teams continually come up to us and tell us how good she is,” the Oxford Coach said. “She is an amazing athlete and keeps us going.”
Button also believe that her libero can continue to play the sport on the next level and will be working with Karnes to get her name out there.
In addition to the captains Button has been impressed with the play of sophomore setter Cassidy Burke, who is an integral part of the Pirates success thus far. 
 “She controls the whole court for us and is just as important as the three seniors,” Button said. “Thankfully we have another two years with her after this season where she’ll be able to help and work with the younger girls to improve their game.”
Ironically Burke found her playing time last fall as a weakside hitter, but over the summer decided that she wanted something different. She took the initiative and after attending some setter’s camps she came into the tryouts looking to grab the position.
With the season just about half way done, Oxford is looking good to earn a return trip back to the tournament. However, in order to do so the squad needs to continue to play with the right attitude while working hard to improve. If they can do that Button sees to reason why they shouldn’t be back in the post-season and hopefully playing better than they did last year.
 “This has been a nice surprise. Coming in all I really was looking for in terms of goals was a culture change while having fun on the court,” the varsity coach said. “I didn’t plan on winning as much as we have, but once we did start winning the girls wanted to keep it going for the rest of the year so they’re working extremely hard to make sure that it happens.”
If the Pirates continue to work hard and keep their attitudes in check this team should be in for a fantastic second half of the season and then a deep run through the tournament.