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Milford Looks to Start Volleyball Co-Op

After building up one of the most successful boys volleyball programs in the state over the past three decades, Milford head coach Linda Zacchilli finds herself at a crossroads. Once deep enough to easily field a varsity, junior varsity, and freshman roster, this year's squad had just 19 players. Seven of those athletes were lost to graduation this year. As a result, the Hall-of-Fame head coach is looking to start a co-op program with Hopedale High School, beginning next season. She says the plan has already been approved by the Hockomock League, and is now seeking approval at the district level. She feels it may be critical to keeping the program going. "We don't get a lot of the young kids anymore," she said. "We get mostly first year sophomores and juniors. So we don't have as many players who are with the program all four years."
Since adding boys' volleyball in 1984, Milford has never failed to qualify for postseason play. Over the years, Scarlet Hawks squads have reached the state final three times and seen numerous players achieve success at the collegiate level. They've also shown a strong loyalty to the red and white. "The kids who do get involved end up loving it," Zacchilli said. "This year we had so many alumni come back for our Coaches vs. Cancer match. They come back after college gets out to practice with the current team and help them get ready for the tournament. They are proud to be a part of the program."
Zacchilli says numbers have been in decline for several seasons, but the 2015 team is one of the smallest she has ever had. She has a few theories as to why that may be. "The dip started when lacrosse was put in place," she said. "There also seem to be fewer multi-sport athletes in general. A lot of kids focus on one sport, possibly because of pressure from parents to earn a college scholarship. If they have a son who is a strong hockey player, they might not want him to play volleyball or football."
Zacchilli also feels her program's success might be working against it. "It can be intimidating when you have a lot of success and kids don't know if they can work their way into the lineup," she said.
Zacchilli and some of her former players will be running a skills clinic this summer during the third week in August, in conjunction with Milford Community Use. The four-day program will take place the week of August 17 and include a meet and greet cookout. It is open to grades seven through 12, and Zacchilli hopes it will help serve as a recruiting tool.
Having started the program and leading it through more than 30 seasons of postseason appearances, as well as a number of league and district titles, Zacchilli is obviously heavily invested in the future of Milford volleyball. "We've built up a great program," she said. "I would hate to see such a successful program go."




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