Nothing Trivial about Hazell’s Volleyball AchievementsSep 28, 2020 02:46PM ● By KEN HAMWEY
Josh Hazell was successful as a Medway coach, because he was fair, and it’s obvious that the personable Bellingham executive is successful because that sense of fairness prevails.
Medway Won State Title 25 Years Ago
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed thousands of lives and wreaked havoc worldwide. And, when decisions were made by federal, state and local governments in the U.S. to shut down business, industry, and schools, suddenly a plethora of people, young and old, had lots of time on their hands. Especially those who were forced to leave the workforce.
Some tended to household projects, others exercised, children played a wide-range of games and others fulfilled educational commitments on-line. Time, however, was still an abundant commodity.
One way some passed time during what was labeled “home confinement’’ was participating in trivia games. Some contests focused on history or entertainment while others were sports-oriented. One common link to whatever type of trivia was in vogue during the height of the coronavirus outbreak was obvious — trivia questions often turn up some interesting answers.
How about this one: Who’s the youngest coach to win a State championship in girls’ volleyball in Massachusetts? Here’s a hint: the answer might be someone who coached at Medway and now works in Bellingham.
When Josh Hazell guided the Medway girls’ volleyball team to the State championship in 1995, he was only 23 and was still working on his bachelors degree at UMass-Boston. Today, the 48-year-old Hazell is vice president/branch manager at Rockland Trust in Bellingham, Medway father of two, and he’s very likely the answer to that question.
Why the doubt? Because the Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for high school sports, doesn’t keep individual records. But the coach that Hazell succeeded — Harry Romsey — believes his successor is the correct answer.
“My guess is that Josh is the youngest,’’ said Romsey, who led Medway to five consecutive State volleyball crowns from 1989-1993. “I know many of the coaches who won State titles, and they were all older.’’
Romsey needed an assistant to coach the jayvee squad and he chose Hazell, who at age 22 had directed the Framingham High boys team to the State quarterfinals. “Josh was a hard-worker, and he was knowledgeable,’’ Romsey said. “The players respected him.’’
A native of Burlington, Vt., Hazell, played soccer and volleyball at Dedham High where he was a captain and a Bay State League all-star in volleyball as a senior.
“On the first day of school my junior year, I suffered a severe fracture of my ankle in a soccer scrimmage against Franklin,’’ Hazell recalled. “When I recovered in the spring, I was looking to play a sport and turned to volleyball. The transition was easy, and volleyball changed my opinion of which sport was my favorite.’’
The 6-foot-2, 145-pound Hazell graduated in 1990 then enrolled at Northeastern University to study civil engineering. He later transferred to UMass-Boston where his major was economics.
“I needed money for college, so I applied for the volleyball job at Framingham and got it,’’ he said. “I coached the boys in the spring and later coached Medway’s jayvee girls in the fall. When Harry left coaching, I took the varsity reins in 1995. We won the State title by defeating Medfield for the Sectional championship, Case High in the State semifinals and Turners Falls in the final.’’
The team’s overall record was 18-4, and its two triumphs in the State matches were by 3-2 margins. Game 5 against Turners Falls was a nail-biter. The State title team of 1995 was his only varsity squad at Medway. It was one and done, because he was focused on getting his degree.
“The State championship was my top thrill in coaching,’’ said Hazell, who coaches soccer in Medway’s youth program. “Just watching all the girls celebrate was my satisfaction. Harry was chairman of the tourney that year, and he presented the trophy to me. I told him ‘we did it’ so he’d know that he was part of it. But, he said: ‘no; you did it.’
“This year is the 25th anniversary of winning that championship. I’m sure my players would agree with me that although time has moved on, it hasn’t dimmed the glow of becoming a State champ.’’
Hazell’s formula for success was all about the attributes he preferred in potential prospects. “I wanted players who were coachable, had a high volleyball IQ, good instincts, and passion for the sport,’’ he said. “My philosophy as the jayvee coach was to develop talent but at the varsity level it was to win. Harry and I clicked because we both were competitive and made winning a priority.’’
The nucleus of girls who brought the crown back to Medway after they had lost in the 1994 State final included six seniors — Jacqui Bliss, Chrissy Still, Erin Berset, Erika Emmons, Christine Bain, and Maribeth Johnson. “They understood team chemistry, were focused, and athletic,’’ Hazell emphasized. “They worked hard and learned how to overcome adversity, how to become leaders, and how to rely on mental toughness.’’
Hazell cared about volleyball early on, and it dominated his life. He played in the Bay State Games from 1990-1997 and won six gold and two silver medals. Playing club volleyball for 10 years, he traveled to tourneys in Dallas, Tulsa, and Kansas City.
Hazell’s coaching style emphasized control. “I learned that if you can control what’s occurring on your side of the net, then you’ll win more than you lose,’’ he said. “It was all about minimizing mistakes.’’