Tess Connolly (’16) Returning Home as Head Volleyball Coach
Lake Catholic is pleased to welcome home Tess Connolly (Lake Catholic Class of 2016) as its next head volleyball coach.
“We are very excited to announce Tess Connolly as the next head coach for the Lake Catholic volleyball program,” said Athletic Director Erik Schroeder. “Tess brings a ton of experience from her playing days here, playing Division I college volleyball, and coaching at her current school. She has demonstrated great leadership skills as both a player and a coach. It’s exciting to have an alum carry on the strong tradition of Lake Catholic volleyball for our players, school, and community.”
Connolly takes over for Kara Oster (’10) who stepped down after leading the Cougars to back-to-back Division III state championships to commit more time to her career and her family.
“Coming back to Lake Catholic means so much to me,” Connolly said. “I feel like I’m coming home. Lake Catholic gave me so many tools that helped me become the best person, student, and athlete I could be. I would not have had the same success in life without the guidance and support I received while at Lake Catholic.”
Connolly was a four-year starter for Lake Catholic, earning all-conference first-team honors her senior season, before receiving a full scholarship to Iona College (New Rochelle, New York), where she was also a four-year starter. While at Iona, she was honored as Iona College Female Rookie Athlete of the Year (2016). During her junior season (2018), she was named Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Player of the Week, helped lead the Gaels to the MAAC regular season and MAAC tournament championships, while advancing to the NCAA Division I tournament. She was also named a team captain for her senior season (2019).
Since August of 2021, Connolly has been a teacher and volleyball coach at St. John’s Preparatory High School in Astoria, New York. She’s taught algebra, computer science, physical education, and child psychology. As a coach, she began the Red Storm’s boys’ volleyball program and serves as its head coach. She was also the head JV/assistant varsity coach for the girls’ team.
Connolly said she will finish out the school year at St. John’s before moving back to the area, where her parents and brother still reside. She said she plans on coming back to Lake Catholic for a few days later this month to meet the girls on the team in person.
The following is a brief Q&A with Connolly.
Why did you apply? Why was now the right time for you to come home?
I applied for the coaching position because I wanted to give back to Lake Catholic, my community and be closer to my family. When I heard about the open position, I got a gut feeling, and I could not stop thinking about it. Lake Catholic has a tremendous tradition, and the volleyball program has been very successful, and I want to help continue the positive impact that the school and the program have. I want to help all my student-athletes remember their time at Lake Catholic and be filled with fun and happy memories.
The program has such a strong tradition and successful history, what will you bring to the program?
I will bring skill/technique development, mental toughness, and leadership to the whole Lake Catholic volleyball program. I was taught by some of the best coaches in Ohio and New York, and I will teach those same skills to our players. I bring a history of success in high school, JO, and college. I know what it means to play in meaningful games, to play in front of hundreds and thousands of people, and to succeed in those situations.
What is your coaching philosophy?
I believe my coaching philosophy is surrounded by three key aspects: discipline, skill-based coaching, and motivation. Volleyball is a game, and it has to be fun. And it has to be a way for each player to grow and improve, both in volleyball skills and in life skills. My players learn volleyball, but they also learn teamwork and discipline. To be successful, each player has to develop skills around passing, hitting, communication, and defense, and, as a teacher, I take pride in teaching and developing those skills in each and every player.
Any added pressure knowing they are back-to-back state champs, have been to the state tournament three years in a row, and have a lot of talent returning?
Of course, I want to continue the great success the program has had over the years and in the past three years in particular. I have always been very competitive throughout my volleyball career, in JO, in high school, and at Iona College. I still have a strong competitive edge as a coach, and I believe that helps me to push myself and my student-athletes. I have seen how much talent the program has returning, and I am very excited to see what the future can bring for us. To improve as a team, each and every player has to improve, and I have the teaching skills across all positions to teach the proper fundamentals and to push each player to reach her full potential. Get better, every player, every day.
When will you get a chance to meet the girls on the team?
I will be traveling back to Mentor for a few days in February, and I will visit Lake Catholic to meet the girls on the team. I am very excited to meet them. I have heard amazing things about them all, and I can’t wait to help them grow both on and off the volleyball court.
Are you finishing out the school year in New York?
Yes, I will be finishing the school year at my current high school. As a teacher and coach, I strongly believe in finishing what you start and never leaving something unfinished. I have done a lot at my current school and could not imagine leaving all of my amazing co-workers, friends, students, and student-athletes without a proper goodbye.
Is your family still in the area? If so, how nice will it be to come home and be back around family and friends?
Yes, my family still lives in the area. My parents live in my childhood home, and my brother lives in Mentor. I truly missed my family and friends while in New York, and I cannot wait to be close to them again. I know they will continue to support me, and it will be easier for me to support them once I return to Ohio. Of course, a lot has changed since I left, but I am excited to have the support of my family and friends as I start the next chapter of my life.
Discover Lake Catholic
Discover yourself, your faith, your future, your purpose. Become a member of the Lake Catholic Family.