Volleyball Team Begins New Era Under Marritt Cafarchia

Sept. 11, 2008

By Phil Landry
Special to GoHolyCross.com

In her first season as Holy Cross' head volleyball coach, Marritt Cafarchia is focused on creating an environment in which winning is the norm. "We want to create more respect on campus to become a game that people want to come watch and cheer," said Cafarchia. "Our motto this year is expect to win."

Cafarchia's experiences on and off the volleyball court have taught her that the path to respect and success is through hard work. "My coaching philosophy is hard work equals success," said Cafarchia. "And I think it is important to create an environment where the players are physically and mentally pushed to their limits."

From an early age growing up in Arroyo Grande, Calif., it seemed as if Cafarchia was destined to become a volleyball coach. "I started playing volleyball in fourth grade, and a friend's mom played for the U.S. Olympic team in 1984 and coached at a local college. It was a part of my life growing up."

Displaying a passionate work ethic in high school volleyball, Cafarchia was determined to play college volleyball. She was rewarded when she was offered a spot on Division I UC Davis' team to be its setter. After starting her freshman year, she was named captain of the team, a position she held her remaining three years. "I always liked being a leader and helping people to succeed," said Cafarchia. "Being a setter is like being the quarterback of the team and a leadership position in itself."

After graduating in 2005, Cafarchia began a career outside of volleyball but soon realized that her true desire was to become a volleyball coach. "I started doing field jobs in sales and realized that it wasn't all that great. Then I e-mailed every Division I program in the country to be a graduate assistant. I started coaching summer camps in the process and realized how much I loved it."

While her approach to volleyball always involved hard work, Cafarchia found herself in a new part of the country with a job as the assistant coach at Tufts University after one phone call. "The Tufts coach hired me over the phone and I came to Boston sight unseen. I had never been here before." Cafarchia became the acting head coach for the 2007 season where she led the Jumbos to a 19-3 record.

She cites commitment from her players as one of the biggest differences she has seen at Holy Cross. "Tufts is a lower division and volleyball really isn't as big of a priority to the players," said Cafarchia. "Here, I'm asking more hours of them. I'm asking for more mental energy. We were in preseason for about three weeks, playing volleyball eight hours a day, and the players have fallen in love with their teammates and with the program."

It wasn't only her experience as a player that made her want to become a coach. "Coaching runs in my family," said Cafarchia. "My father was a high school football coach, my grandfather was a coach, and my aunt and uncle both coach soccer. It is kind of a Cafarchia tradition."

Cafarchia credits her father as her biggest role model. "My Dad is an amazing guy and great leader," she said. "He motivates people and challenges them. As a kid, he would motivate me and challenge me, and I see myself doing it now to my players. It is pretty neat."

Cafarchia continues to challenge herself away from the game of volleyball through other athletic endeavors that go hand in hand with intensity and hard work. She runs marathons and has biked across the country. "I think marathons and biking create mental toughness. They create a painful situation in which you turn your mind off and get into a zone."

Those experiences off the court have shaped what Cafarchia preaches to her players on the court. "It's something that I've been creating with the team, we call it tunnel vision. They step in the tunnel and nothing else matters. It's business. It's been fun to see them get in that zone and get intense."

One of the program's new characteristics is being loud and full of energy. The team's lively practices have been an indication of the way they want to play every point. "The team is very vocal in practice - we call it a vocal pace. You have to set a high vocal pace."

Cafarchia hopes that pushing her team to their limit will create results on the court. "It's been fun because the team really doesn't have any limits. Every challenge I've presented them with in the preseason, they've risen to," said Cafarchia. "And that's what's so exciting."

Cafarchia will look for mental strength from her players during the season. She will continue to push her team to their limits in order reach her goal of a Patriot League championship. "We've created a feisty, scrappy, loud mentality. And that's the type of volleyball that Holy Cross needs in order to succeed."