If you’re looking to build up your high school volleyball program, you could attempt to clone the Cape’s most successful coach, or you could simply go out and hire a couple of disciples of the Tom Turco volleyball dynasty.
That’s exactly what happened over at St. John Paul II, as 2017 Barnstable graduate Shannon Kennedy-Cabral and her younger sister Haley Cabral (a 2018 Barnstable alum) – both former Barnstable volleyball captains – have been engaged to co-head coach the Lions this fall.
Shannon, a year older, and Haley were both captains their senior year, were named Old Colony League All-Stars, and were also members of the 2015 and 2016 state championship teams.
They began playing volleyball at the tender age of six while attending Turco’s summer camps, made the freshman team as eighth graders and eventually moved up to the varsity squad; Shannon during her junior year and Haley, as a sophomore.
“We’re very lucky to be coaching together,” said Shannon. “Then to have coach Turco to look up to, although we’re making this program our own, we still are using things that we’ve learned and things that we find important to the game of volleyball.”
After spending a year at Salve Regina, Shannon decided the college wasn’t for her, and she came back to the area to serve as an assistant coach with Stephanie Swider last season. When Swider stepped down, “we stepped up,” Shannon said.
“We were actually coaching juniors when we found out that we were going to be the head coaches (at St. John Paul),” said Haley. “We went in and told (Turco), and he just couldn’t be happier for us. He’s really right there with us, and anything we need he’s been helping us.”
However, while Turco is always there for ideas or suggestions, the sisters are making this program their own.
“I think the biggest thing that I have taken is the idea of being a team,” said Shannon. “Before, I think, people had their own friends, but we want this to be a team. It’s something that was instilled on us, and we’re trying to do that right back to these girls.”
“We definitely try to emphasize what a team player is, and we’re all here for the same reason,” she said. “Volleyball is not an individual sport. We’re all on the court together and all performing together.”
The present roster consists of seven seniors who were members of last season’s team that missed qualifying for the playoffs by one game. There are two juniors and three freshmen for a good combination of youth and experience.
Among the seniors are captains Melissa Van Cott (middle hitter), Brooke Whitten (outside hitter), Emily Back (setter/middle-hitter) and Brooke Eger (libero), who each voiced their excitement for a new start with a new coaching staff.
“They have a lot of experience at winning when they played for Barnstable,” said Whitten. “We’ve gotten very close with them and they know what they’re talking about.”
Eger agreed, “I think they really understand a lot about the game. They seem to be really down to earth with us,” she said. “We’re becoming a really strong team with their high expectations.”
Both coaches made no bones about it that their No. 1 goal from the outset was to qualify for the post-season playoffs and see where that brings them.
Another change has been swapping around some positions and encouraging players to take spots they have not always been accustomed to.
“It was the best experience for us to get out there and figure out how to play with one another in our new positions,” said Bach, who moved from middle-hitter and is now a setter.
“We have the same rotation as last year, but they’re stressing the fundamentals with us and getting our positions down,” said Van Cott. “I think we’re all clicking very well, and we’re really working hard.”
Aside from the four captains, other seniors on the team include Piper Tinory, Molly Wood and Jenna Ellis; juniors Alex Stampfl and Ana Ferreira; and freshmen Anna Julia Coelho, Sophia Tropeano and Delaney Burrell.
“All of these girls are talented players and putting that together I think we’re going to have a strong team,” said Shannon.
Both coaches brought their team to the familiar confines of Barnstable High School last weekend as part of the pre-season play day at their alma mater.
“We got to attend play-day last weekend, and we got to see coach (Turco), and he got a chance to see us coach,” said Haley. “Honestly, to coach alongside my sister, who was always my role model growing up, I couldn’t ask for a better person to be doing this with.”