Women’s volleyball Head Coach Bridget Sheehan is taking a leave of absence during the 2016 season following a diagnosis of Fallopian cancer in summer of 2016.
“It was a shock to all of us,” said Justine Kelly, ’18, setter and 2016 co-captain. “We didn’t really know exactly what was going on… Coach seems like a very healthy person and never seemed like anything was wrong.”
Acting Head Coach Kelli Trautmann said that she is confident and excited to take on the position this season and support Sheehan through her treatment. Trautmann was hired as the team’s assistant coach in May 2016.
“[Trautmann] a tough coach, but I think we need it,” Kelly said. “She really pushes us and she will critique us on anything we need critiquing on, I like that about her, and I think she’s very engaged also. She wants a good season and we want a good season, so I think she’s a good fit to be head coach.”
Middle Hitter and 2016 co-captain Leah Franzluebbers, ’18, said Trautmann explained to the team the fundamentals of her coaching style and what to expect this season.
“[Trautmann has] definitely been continuing the work that Coach [Sheehan] has been doing for 30 years here, so I think that helps us,” Franzluebbers said. “Most of [the challenge] has been getting used to a new coach and a new coaching style. I think our new coach has had to get used to that and we’ve had to get used to that, but I think it’s been working well and we’ve all been working hard.”
Trautmann said her coaching style has not changed through the transition and she is working to keep Sheehan informed on the team’s progress.
“The whole situation with Coach Sheehan’s health is a challenge, but they seem to be responding to me very well, which is good,” Trautmann said. “As far as our styles, we’re both very intense and have a competitive drive, so practices are fast paced.”
The team has made T-shirts for warmups sharing the “#Battle4Bridget” message and reminding them what she is going through every day. On Oct. 15, the women’s volleyball team and the athletic department are hosting Battle 4 Bridget, a day of honoring Sheehan and raising awareness of the fight against cancer. The team will be fundraising throughout the day to support the Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Institute in Meadville.
Despite the challenges the team has faced in preseason, Franzluebbers and Kelly said the team is looking forward to winning matches and placing within the top three teams in the conference.
“I’m looking forward to playing our conference opponents,” Franzluebbers said. “I think we’re going to do a lot better than we’ve done in years past. It’s definitely going to be really competitive– the conference has gotten even better in the last year and I think we’re really going to play with the best of them.”