Fran Vandermeer celebrates her team (photo copyright Williams College)

The honors have been rolling in for the members of the volleyball team during the last week. They are young (they lost only one senior to graduation last year and will again lose one this year), so their poise and perseverance through a rocky mid-season — where they were losing more than they were winning–and their improbable upsets and streak are all the more admirable. They are now 28-12, with 12 of those wins coming in the last 12 games.¬†Congratulations to regional tournament MVP Kate Anderson and to fellow All-Tournament Team member Nichole Ballon-Landa (both sophomores) and to their very worthy All-Tournament Team member peers Alice Cummings and Jessica Duff of Wellesley.

The remarkable Coach Fran Vandermeer deserves special congratulations. She has an extraordinary connection with her team. She tries to sit through the sets the way the other coaches do, but she can’t. She doesn’t yell or stamp, but she’s always there at the edge of the court and you can see her energy and passion flowing over the line to her girls. You can sense the connection in her strategic use of time outs and the knowledge of her team embodied in it; other coaches try to do this but she almost never fails to steady her girls and send them roaring back. And she seems to keep the focus forward, something that carries over in the girls’ poise (you won’t see them getting frustrated or turning on each other the way some other teams do). As I watched her make big changes in rocky moments during the Tufts, Springfield, and Wellesley games, I kept thinking about the trust she’s built among the girls: they implemented the changes with unhesitating confidence that the new arrangement was just the thing to turn the tide (often it seemed to become a self-fulfilling prophecy).

In her 19th or 20th year as a Williams coach, Vandermeer is one of the gems of Williams College. So is Cross-Country Head Coach Pete Farwell ’73, whose harriers again did so well yesterday but who is to be equally honored for the huge deep, smart, no-cut program he runs. Thankfully, there’s something about Williams, other NESCAC schools, and remnants of the Seven Sisters that nurtures these vital, longtime non-academic teachers.

Vandermeer steadies her team (photo copyright Williams College)

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