Bombs away

WINDHAM – Michael Chaffee knows not to jump to conclusions, make irrational statements or pound his chest in triumph.

With 30 years of volleyball coaching experience, Chaffee understands humility. He also knows that his 12-1 Windham Bombers are holding their own as the new kids on the block.

According to, they’re considered the 46th best team in the state.

“It’s always hard to compare teams because the game has changed so much now,” Chaffee said. “This is certainly as athletic of a team that I’ve coached.”

The Bombers beat Maplewood in three sets on Thursday to stay undefeated in the Northeastern Athletic Conference. Windham is 8-0, so far, in its first year in the league.

“There’s a lot of solid programs in the NAC, which we’re learning,” Chaffee said. “A lot of this is new. We’ve seen Maplewood in the past – and they’re a really solid team. We’ve never played Py Valley, Grand Valley or Mathews. It’s been exciting. We’ve been going to new places and the reception we’ve received in the new league has been very nice.”

Chaffee is an Ursuline High grad and also the principal of Windham High School. He’s held the post for five years after 20 years as an English teacher.

“It’s fun seeing him in the halls and then turning around and coaching us,” junior Jessica Isler said. “He won’t pick his favorites, but it’s really nice. We all get along well.”

Isler had 16 points, six kills and 33 assists against Maplewood. Fellow junior Dari Heller had 20 kills, five aces and four blocks. Sophomore Brittany Knight had 13 points, nine digs and five aces.

“We’re still pretty young,” Chaffee said. “We have an awfully talented group of kids. We’re very, very solid one through six.

“Our kids on the bench do a great job and when given a chance they play very well. It’s really helped us in practice this year because we’re able to do more scrimmages and game situations. We have 13 kids who can play, so we have depth.”

None of the girls play in strenuous offseason or intense summer leagues. Most are three-sport athletes, like Isler, who is also a standout in basketball and softball.

“It’s just a tradition here,” Chaffee said of Windham’s multi-sport athletes. It was always hard for kids to play J.O. volleyball because the Portage Trail Conference had Saturday basketball games. School sports come first and that’s our philosophy.

“We do work hard in June to stay very competitive for the fall and that’s always been our trademark.”

It’s built chemistry, making communication on the court a priority.

“We’ve all been playing together for so long,” Isler said. “We’re such a small school that we know everybody. We hang out all the time and have fun, but we go hard in practice and bring that attitude into games.”

The Bombers went 18-7 in 2012 and fell to Ledgemont in the district finals. They beat the Redskins in three sets on Tuesday. Garfield, Bloomfield, Bristol, Lordstown, Mogadore, Badger and Pymatuning Valley remain on this year’s schedule. Maplewood looms again on October 8.

“They have a nice team,” Chaffee said. “Brooke Dawson can really hit the ball. They serve well and they hustle well. They dug a lot of balls that have been kills the rest of the year.”

Dawson led the Rockets (8-6, 5-5 NAC) with seven kills, five blocks and three acres. Abby Higgins had nine assists and Morgan Hansel had four service points.