When he took over as head coach six years ago, Robert Hugelmeyer was asked to build the J.F. Kennedy High School girls volleyball program from the ground up.
Being thrust into a situation like the one Hugelmeyer was presented with, he knew there were going to be tough times ahead.
The program’s inaugural season was played strictly on the junior varsity level and, to say the least, the first years as a varsity program were uninspiring.
But patience is a virtue and, in due time, Hugelmeyer had the confidence within himself that if he could instill a love for the game within his players coupled with proper coaching techniques, improvement would be a forgone conclusion.
And, improve they did.
The Mustangs posted an overall record of 9-15 a year ago, their best as a varsity program.
With a host of players returning from last year’s squad, the prospects of building upon last year’s success were promising.
“After last year we knew we were going to continue to improve because we had a lot of young players,” said Hugelmeyer, who’s also a history teacher at J.F. Kennedy. “We had a lot of juniors and a few sophomores that were the core players of our team last year. We knew going forward we’d improve.”
Improvement for the 2012 Mustangs has come in the form of shattering last year’s school record for wins in a season by posting a 12-2 mark so far this year, along with being considered a serious contender for taking home a Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament title.
“The girls have handled (the success) great,” Hugelmeyer said. “We’ve basically kept the same mantra all year which is self-discipline, team mentality and a solid work ethic. The girls know that our goal is baby steps and to win the White Division. They understand that the path is to stay focused on that. They understand what they need to do to get better and to beat teams that we should beat.”
Needless to say, J.F. Kennedy volleyball is now on the map in the GMC, something that nobody could have said in the previous five years.
“I’ve seen it from the beginning to right now,” senior captain Christina Maglione said about her time spent as a four-year varsity volleyball player. “It’s really awesome. It’s definitely changed a lot, in a good way.”
With the GMC Tournament beginning next week, it’s clear that more change could be on the horizon for a program that appears poised to leave its mark on the conference when tournament time concludes.
“Going into (the GMCT) we’re going to be in that top sphere of teams,” Hugelmeyer said. “The girls definitely have confidence that they can beat anybody in the GMC so that’s another great step forward for us.”