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Zacchilli Named Boys Volleyball Coach of the Year

Linda Zacchilli is no stranger to winning. She's won awards, championships, and is inducted into multiple halls of fame. But winning the MIAA 2015 Boys Volleyball Coach of the Year Award is particularly special for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's recognition for a lifetime of coaching excellence. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it was an award initiated by her team.
"I really can't think of any other way to feel better about an award than have your own team nominate you," she said. "I am thrilled and honored, I could not have been any happier when I found out."
When her 2015 squad learned about the award, they went to work contacting the MIAA and filling out the necessary paperwork. They contacted Zacchilli's husband, Nick, and son, Peter, to get the necessary biographical information, and sent in what ended up being the winning nomination. "For a group of high school kids to go through that process, that alone is pretty impressive," she said.
Zacchilli is one of the driving forces behind creating boys volleyball in the state and building it into what it has become today. 30 years ago, boys and girls competed together. Zacchilli says she recalls losing a postseason match to a team with five boys on the floor and said "I can't let that happen in Milford."
She knew a group of boys who wanted to play. She encouraged them to start a petition to create the program and, in 1985, they did. The team started out learning the fundamentals and transitioning from the game played in phys-ed classes to the sport Zacchilli has spent her life teaching.
Results, as they typically do for teams she has coached, came quickly. Four years later that group went to the state semi-finals and later earned induction as a team into the Milford High School Hall of Fame. "I have had a lot of great teams and great kids that I've worked with," Zacchilli said. "But when I think about coaching boys volleyball, I always think about that team and the early years of the program."
Zacchilli also points to her back-to-back state finalists in 2012 and 2013 as being among her most memorable teams. "The second one was even sweeter because we lost a lot of seniors and still went all the way back to the state title match," she said. "That team will always be a highlight."
Through the many wins and far fewer losses, Zacchilli has tutored hundreds of boys who continue to come back and give back to the program that meant to much to them. Alumni come to practices to meet the current team and they packed the gym last week for Milford's Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser match against Lawrence. Zacchilli had been cancer-free for five years, but is battling a relapse this spring. The emotional lift provided by so many former players returning to see her is a greater reward for a stellar career than any championship, award, or hall of fame induction.
"The kids came down from the stands and we all took a picture together at the game," she said. "Seeing all of the athletes I have coached over the years, they keep coming back and showing their support. Those are the moments I will always cherish.




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