Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools 2637 Tusky Valley Rd. Zoarville, OH 44656 Home of the Trojans!

The Birth of a Dynasty
The Story of How Tusky Valley Volleyball Became the State's Most Consistent Program

October 11, 2016

For over a generation, Tusky Valley high school students have started each new school year with a few certaintiesin mind.  Teachers will assign too much homework, the leaves will fall from the trees and the Tusky Valley volleyball program will contend for the league title and make a serious run at the state tournament.

This year’s volleyball team is no different. The Trojans improved to 20-1 with their victory at Manchester on Thursday night.  While team members didn’t know the significance of the game at the time, they have now become a part of history.  The victory marked the 20th consecutive season in which the volleyball team has won at least 20 games, a feat unmatched by any other school in the state of Ohio.  TVOnline has reached out to all of the top volleyball schools across the state and no other school can confirm that they have accomplished this feat. The Tusky Valley volleyball program has set a standard for a consistency of excellence that is unmatched in Ohio high school volleyball.

As hard as it is to believe, the volleyball team was not always the dominant force it is today.  In fact, the program struggled to compete in its infancy and found little success on the court.  Founded in 1973, the volleyball team had just one winning season in its first 12 years of existence and compiled a record of 41-143. So what changed?  How did the program that rarely won four games in a season become one of the elite programs in the state for a generation?

It was the summer of 1986.  Kerry Swigert (Steffen) had just graduated from West Liberty and was looking to begin her career in education when she arrived at Tusky Valley.  “I had heard from a friend that there could possibly be an opening at Tusky Valley and I wanted to coach,” Swigert told TVOnline.  “I came right out of college. I was 22 when I started at at Tusky Valley.”

Swigert stepped into a tough situation as the Trojan volleyball team had won just five games the previous season and had had six consecutive seasons with 16 or more losses.  Perhaps it was youthful ambition but the struggles did not dissuade Swigert from taking the controls of the program.  “I was pumped to take the team and I knew it was going to be a challenge,” recalled Swigert.  “I had played volleyball, but I went to clinics and spoke to many coaches to get ideas to help the program.”


The 1986 Trojan volleyball team and new head coach Kerry Swigert (Steffen)

Unfortunately the first year did not go as planned for the young coach as the Trojans struggled to a 3-22 record.  “It is tough coming to a new school and coaching a group of girls new to you,” Swigert is quoted as saying in the 1987 TVHS yearbook.  “The season was very disappointing.  However, we improved greatly from the beginning of the season.  The girls played as a team and never gave up.  We finished the season proud of our team.”

Following the 1986 season, the Trojan volleyball program underwent a seismic shift that is still seen in today’s players.  Simply put, volleyball became a sport you worked at throughout the year and not just a game to play during the fall.  “We set goals and seriously worked hard to improve the program,” said Swigert.  “We had open gyms, workouts, etc. to get us on the right track.”

The work began to pay dividends during the second half of 1987 season. After struggling to a 2-9 start, the volleyball team won seven of their final 10 games to finish the season at 9-13.  “The challenge for me was getting the girls to play as a team and work together,” said Swigert. “They all had excellent talent. We just needed to work together and build positive relationships within the team.”

Looking back at the yearbook from that season, it is clear that Swigert’s message was starting to have an impact on her team. “We did have a slow start,” noted senior Pam Glaserman.  “But as the season progressed we began to work as a team.” Fellow senior Wendi Weinhardt had a similar view and proved to be quite the prognosticator of the future.  “We had our best season ever this year,” said Weinhardt. “We worked for every victory.  I am proud of the team and I know the team will continue to improve through the years.”


Wendi Weinhardt throws down a spike in a 1987 match vs. Carrollton

The volleyball program continued its steady growth in the 1988 season.  The Trojans posted their first winning record since 1979 and only the second winning record in school history as they went 12-7. The hard work of the previous two years had paid off and the closeness of the players, a Tusky Valley trademark, began to shine through. “The girls used their friendship and teamwork to a real advantage and strength,” Swigert told the 1989 yearbook. “They had such a desire to win.”

That desire exploded into a perfectly timed inferno for the 1989 season. The Trojans returned 1988 co-MVPs Holly Rhodes and Kim Shellock as well as an array of talented players including Jennifer Levengood, Stephanie Ferry, Gina Fishley and Heather Fishley. The team was also playing in a new league as the Senate League had folded following the 1988-1989 school year.  The result was the greatest season in Tusky Valley volleyball history as the Trojans went a perfect 20-0 in the regular season to claim the inaugural PAC championship.  “In 1989… it was the greatest group ever,” Swigert told TVOnline.  “We had such leadership with all the girls respecting each other.  It just clicked.”

PAC-7 First Team member Kim Shellock stated in the yearbook, “Our volleyball season was awesome this year.  I had a lot of fun working with my friends and teammates.  It’s not often you see a team go undefeated in a season like we did.”


1989 seniors Stephanie Ferry, Kim Shellock and Holly Rhodes before the district game vs. Meadowbrook

Fellow senior and PAC-7 Player of the Year Holly Rhodes commented, “This season was the season I always dreamed of and I’m glad I could have shared it with the team.  Our friendships are what made our team strong and without them we could have never accomplished Tusky Valley’s first volleyball championship.”

The 1989 team would also capture the school’s first sectional title before falling to eventual state champion Buckeye Trail in the district championship game.

The 1989 season marked the end of an era in Tusky Valley volleyball.  After putting in four years of grueling work to change the culture of the volleyball program, Coach Swigert resigned her position as Tusky Valley volleyball coach.  “I had my son and began my Master’s at Walsh University,” said Swigert.  “I wish I had kept coaching though.  That is a regret I have.”

Swigert would be replaced by Jodi Forshey (Weinhardt) and the Trojans’ winning ways would continue as her teams reeled off four consecutive winning seasons including another perfect regular season in 1991.

Forshey would leave following the 1993 season and the Trojans had a rare down year in 1994.  The down year in 1994 led to the arrival of Jen Lauber as Tusky Valley's new head coach. Under Lauber's leadership the Trojans returned to their winning ways as the team won 19 games in 1995 before winning 18 games in 1996.

In 1997, the Tusky Valley volleyball program would take the next step in its evolution as the team became a state power.  The “Women in Black” would win 21 games and become PAC, sectional, district, and regional champions before falling in the state Final Four. Every Trojan volleyball team since that magical 1997 season has won at least 20 games and the program has captured 14 PAC championships, 19 consecutive sectional championships, 16 district championships, and 7 regional championships along the way.

Lauber would leave Tusky Valley following the 2006 season but the excellence of the Trojan volleyball program would continue through coaches Marianne Humphrey, Denell Gordon, and Michelle Gilland.

In 2015 the Trojans returned to the state Final Four before falling to St. Henry's in the state semifinals. The Trojans were led by first year head coach Cortney Goodwin, a member of the 1997 team that started the streak of 20 win seasons. Virtually the entire roster from last year's state semi-finalists returns and the Trojans are once again intent on getting to back to Dayton as they seek to win the school's first ever state championship in a team sport.

30 years after starting her career at Tusky Valley, Kerry Swigert is still working in education.  She received her Master’s in counseling in 1998 and has been a school counselor at the Louisville City Schools ever since.  “I truly met some of the nicest people at T.V. and have the BEST memories of the Tusky Valley students and staff,” said Swigert. “I became a school counselor because of Maxine Siebel and Paul Gibson, two former counselors at Tusky Valley. They encouraged me to get into this field and I am grateful for their advice.”

Every coach and player from the past 20 years deserves credit for the incredible feat of winning 20 games a year for 20 consecutive seasons.  But the foundation for today’s volleyball success wasn’t laid in 1997, it was laid in 1986.  “I am so proud to hear about the volleyball team’s success… words cannot describe it,” beamed Swigert.  “I was so excited to relay the message to my family and hopefully the players will be excited to learn how they started the volleyball success at Tusky Valley!”

*** - The volleyball team extended their streak to 21 consecutive seasons on October 10th, 2017 with a victory over Conotton Valley.

20 Years of 20 Wins

Year W L Coach
2016
27
2
Cortney Goodwin
2015
22
6
Cortney Goodwin
2014
21
6
Michelle Gilland
2013
21
5
Denell Gordon
2012
25
1
Denell Gordon
2011
21
5
Denell Gordon
2010
28
1
Denell Gordon
2009
26
1
Denell Gordon
2008
22
5
Denell Gordon
2007
23
4
Marianne Humphrey
2006
22
5
Jen Lauber
2005
25
1
Jen Lauber
2004
25
1
Jen Lauber
2003
25
2
Jen Lauber
2002
26
2
Jen Lauber
2001
26
3
Jen Lauber
2000
24
4
Jen Lauber
1999
20
5
Jen Lauber
1998
26
2
Jen Lauber
1997
21
5
Jen Lauber
Total
473
66

Random Facts About the Streak (as of the conclusion of the 2016 season)

  • The Trojans are 473-66 overall during the streak
  • The Trojans are 232-16 in PAC play during the streak
  • The volleyball program has produced nine First Team All-Ohioans during the streak
  • Not a single Tusky Valley student was alive the last time a Trojan volleyball team did not win 20 games
  • Only 16 of 181 employees worked at TVLS the last time a Trojan volleyball team did not win 20 games
  • The middle school had just opened the last time a Trojan volleyball team did not win 20 games

 



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