LYNN — Mike McDuffee has always held a passion for volleyball. During his high school days at Malden Catholic, he played in adult leagues to keep himself engaged, and helped start the men’s club team at Assumption College. Now McDuffee hopes to pass his passion along to his players as the new head volleyball coach at St. Mary’s.
McDuffee was offered the position in May but a few changes, mainly switching from teaching at St. Mary’s to accepting a job at Malden Catholic, meant he had to hold off on accepting the appointment. He officially accepted the position at the beginning of August.
“I was excited,” said McDuffee, a Winthrop native who lives in Lynnfield. “I had been teaching at St. Mary’s for five years. I’ve always loved volleyball. I’ve been excited to teach my knowledge of the game to the student athletes at St. Mary’s. I’ve always kept my name in the fold, so it’s exciting. We have 8-10 seniors on the roster and I’ve had them all as students. It’s exciting to be their coach during their senior year.”
St. Mary’s athletic director Jeff Newhall is happy to have McDuffee on board.
“Mike has a lot of experience in the game of volleyball and he knows all of our kids very well,” Newhall said. “The players and coaches are excited and are looking forward to a successful season.”
Joining McDuffee on his coaching staff is assistant Ivanna Nunez. A former Spartans volleyball star, Nunez graduated from St. Mary’s in 2016. McDuffee taught Nunez during her sophomore year and said he’s excited to have her on the coaching staff.
“When she heard an opening she reached out to us,” said McDuffee, who teaches theology. “She sent us an email. She loves the school. She knows a couple of the girls on the team. She’s going to be our junior varsity and freshman coach. We’ve had some time to sit down and talk about some things. I think we’ll work well together. She’s excited and she’s confident.”
With a senior-heavy roster, McDuffee believes veteran leadership will play in St. Mary’s favor, which will come in handy as the team works through the learning curve that comes with a coaching change.
“It’s not just the experience but the leadership, which I think is very good for the team,” McDuffee said. “I’ve played different sports but there’s something about volleyball that creates a certain chemistry. If you want to be successful you have to develop good leadership. I think we have a leg up knowing we have this much leadership. The girls are really driven to do something special this year.”
McDuffee takes over the program at St. Mary’s after one season as an assistant coach at Pope John in Everett. McDuffee previously coached the men’s club team at Assumption shortly after ending his playing career. He replaces former Spartans coach Erin Menard, who was the head coach at St. Mary’s for five seasons.
McDuffee said he has attended a few matches over the years. He got his first glance at the current players at a volleyball camp during the summer.
“I’ve seen a little bit of them on the court just from being a teacher there over the years,” McDuffee said. “This summer, we ran a skills and drills camp for sixth through ninth grade girls interested in learning skills in volleyball. A lot of the varsity players will come and assist. I got to see them a little bit in that capacity. I haven’t seen them much on the court until we really got into the season last Thursday when we started practicing.
“I think we definitely have a very good foundation in terms of talent, a desire to be good. We have some students of the game that love the sport. There’s definitely some little technique things that I want to change up a bit. It’s going to take some work to change those things. All in all, I think we’ll have a very successful year and I think we’re poised to do something special.”