There was an unusual sighting on the Wapahani bench Saturday afternoon in Worthen Arena. Assistant volleyball coach Stew Peck returned to the Raiders after missing the previous five matches.
As strange as it sounds, his absence in the three previous rounds of the state tournament contributed significantly to the Raiders winning their second consecutive Class 2A state title.
The 57-year-old Peck drove around the state in the earlier rounds to scout the next potential opponent for the Raiders. First, he stopped at Madison-Grant for the sectional. Peck drove three days later to Rochester for regional, and he then scouted Providence at the Forest Park Semistate.
“Part of it is I can sleep better at nighttime knowing what we’ve got in front of us,” said Peck, who with his snow-white beard, bald dome and wired glasses has a distinguished professor look about him. “I know what we can do. It’s nice to know what the other guys are doing, too.”
The trusted assistant returned each time to Lingenfelter with a detailed scouting report. He assessed each player, charted out their movements and hitting locations in each rotation, summarized their blocking schemes and their passing tendencies. For Providence, Peck sent Lingenfelter a summary email that read, “This team is Rochester on steroids.” He attached six documents with the summary that mapped out their offense and defense for each rotation in their match Oct. 27 against Eastern Greene.
Lingenfelter took those in-depth scouting reports and put together nearly perfect game plans throughout the state tournament. Opponents terminated few balls on a Wapahani defense in the right place at the right time, and the Raider attack took advantage of holes in the defense that Peck first detected on his scouting trips. Wapahani steamrolled everyone in the state tournament, dropping only one set in the seven matches.
“I had a great feel for who could hurt me and who would try to hurt me,” Lingenfelter said. “I’ll tell you how extreme his scouting was. I even knew about the fathers from Providence wearing the wigs. It was mentioned not once but twice in my scouting report.
“… When we started out on this a million years ago, I had three questions for him. Can we beat them? Who do we serve? Do they give line? Now, it’s these incredible dissertations on every kid’s skill set or preferences. It’s very akin to what I would’ve done in college.”
Lingenfelter coached the Raiders to their second consecutive and third overall state title Saturday, and as he said, it’s no coincidence that Peck has been the one constant on his staffs.
Peck coached the Wapahani freshman team before Lingenfelter first took over the program in 2000. Lingenfelter decided to retain the junior varsity coaching staff, and so Peck stayed on and assisted while the youngest of his two daughters, Holly, played for the Raiders.
The soft-spoken, mild-mannered Peck and fiery, outspoken Lingenfelter formed a tight friendship instantly, and Peck has been his assistant with Wapahani or the Munciana Volleyball Club 18-1 Samurai team or both ever since.
Lingenfelter described Peck as a “fantastic human being,” who has matured into an excellent coach. Peck has specialized in coaching middle blockers for Lingenfelter, and he has coached 12 AAU All-American at Munciana.
“He’s a real connoisseur of training middles,” Lingenfelter said. “Stew brings his lunchbox to work every day in the sense that he’s just going to go to work.”
Peck has coached in this volleyball hotbed for about 20 years, but his introduction to the sport came in Vermont. He played intramural volleyball in high school and then at Johnson State College where he met his wife, Gail.
He and Gail moved to Delaware County when Garfield creator Jim Davis hired him to develop software for Paws Inc. Peck still works there.
Working at Paws Inc. and coaching high school and club volleyball left Peck with barely any free time for his family, so he stepped down from Munciana two years ago.
“It was fun for a while. I got a lot done when he’d be gone for days, but after a while it got old,” Gail said.
Gail accompanied her husband on a few of his scouting trips this season. They loaded up the Ford Focus, plugged in his iPod , and the married couple of 32 years rocked out as he drove on the Indiana highways.
Peck is hot blooded and tends to crank up the air conditioning, so they usually stopped for coffee on the way, and Gail covered up in a blanket to stay warm.
The conversation between the two came to a screeching halt just about the time he pulled the car into the school parking lot. Peck transformed into scouting mode, and blocked all distractions, even if one of them happened to be his wife.
“Gail will be sitting there talking to me, and I’ll be like, ‘I don’t know what you said.’ I don’t want to know,” he said. “And then I’ll ask her a question, and she’ll go, ‘What, you expect me to pay attention? You don’t ever talk to me during this. No, I don’t know what you just asked me.’ So it goes around and comes around.”
Whether Peck will be traveling around the state with Gail to scout opponents next year is uncertain at this point. Lingenfelter said after the Raiders won Saturday that he will discuss his future intentions with his daughter, sophomore setter Kiley Lingenfelter, before deciding if he will return next season. Lingenfelter is the Munciana co-director and said the time commitment to prep volleyball in the summer and fall limits his productivity with the club.
If Lingenfelter leaves, the decision will probably be relatively easy for Peck. The two of them will walk off into the proverbial sunset with back-to-back state titles and three overall at Wapahani to their credit. If Lingenfelter decides to return, then Peck will weigh the pros and cons of what will undoubtedly be a difficult decision.