The Hornets are one of the few schools in Vermont to have a volleyball program. The other programs are CVU, VCS, Burlington High School, Enosburg and Lyndon. It was just last fall that head coach Karen Chesser, with the support of the Essex High School athletic department, established teams for boys and girls at the varsity and junior varsity levels.
Chesser is no stranger to the game; her playing career began in seventh grade and continued through the semi-pro level. While at Southington High School in Connecticut, she was offered a scholarship to play at American International College in Springfield, Mass. But academics didn’t slow Chesser’s love of the game.
“I graduated early with a masters in educational counseling and psychology in 1997,” Chesser said in a recent interview, noting that while she was in school she also coached several Connecticut juniors volleyball teams on the side.
After school the Colchester resident continued to play and coach her own USAV Indoor Volleyball team called “RallySmackdown,” as well as play in the New England Beach Volleyball Circuit.
“I was recruited by Team Syncronicity to play in the Nationals in Columbus, Ohio where we went on to become National Champions,” Chesser explained.
Now that Chesser’s playing career is behind her, she hopes to promote the sport of volleyball. Essex High School volleyball is in its early stages and Chesser, who has over 20 years of coaching experience, understands what it will take from both herself and her athletes to remain a varsity program.
“Being at the varsity level takes hard work, consistency and a positive attitude,” Chesser said. “Student-athletes need to be mentally tough to get through long, hard practices with motivation and enthusiasm.
“[EHS’s] varsity standing will hopefully encourage more schools to create a volleyball program, which would allow us to increase the number of matches during the season. I think it would also increase the level of competition.”
Chesser and the athletic department at Essex High School are working to spread the word about volleyball in Vermont. They are working with Enosburg, Burlington and Champlain Valley Union High Schools to help thicken the season schedule.
After her first season, she started her own business called VT Elite Volleyball; she hosts volleyball clinics and private lessons for all levels. Chesser is aiming to work with other volleyball enthusiasts in the area to one-day make Vermont the lead competitor of the sport.
“During the last week of October and the first week of November we are planning to offer after-school clinics and exhibition matches for schools that are interested,” Chesser said. “We feel that once the athletic directors and students see how exciting and dynamic this sport is, it will encourage them to create a team at their school.”
Editor’s Note: See the volleyball teams play this Friday. CVU will host EHS boys at 4 p.m. and the girls will play Rice Memorial at home at 4:30 p.m.