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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 18, 2010

Kurkjian bows out after winning another title

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Tom Kurkjian loves coaching boys’ volleyball at Voorheesville. He just can’t handle the travel anymore.

Kurkjian is retiring after 24 years as head coach. He led the Blackbirds to its third consecutive Central Hudson Valley League title this season.

Kurkjian started coaching Voorheesville in 1974 after volunteering to jump-start the program. He also started coaching boys’ and girls’ tennis in the same year. He’ll continue coaching tennis.

“They needed someone with an athletic background to coach volleyball,” said Kurkjian, who has retired from teaching seventh-grade social studies at Voorheesville. “I didn’t know much about the sport, but I gave it a shot. I started stone cold.”

Kurkjian coached the first 16 years, and then took a 12-year absence between 1990 and 2002. His son, Tom Kurkjian Jr., played under his father and also finished his career after the 1990 season.

“We only lost one single game that season,” said Coach Kurkjian of 1990. “My son finished his career with a spike inside the 10-foot line and that’s like a dunk in basketball. He wasn’t very tall, but he could jump real high.”

Kurkjian told The Enterprise that he thought of retiring a few years back, but he wanted to be there to watch Garret Wineinger play as a senior. Kurkjian refers to the last three seasons as the “Wineinger years.” Wineinger was the starting setter during that period and the team went 31-1.

“That kid absolutely loves volleyball and he’s fun to watch,” Kurkjian said of Wineinger. “I wanted to be there till the end. The kids that really enjoyed the sport always come back and check on the team. I’m sure he will.”

Will Witty, currently the assistant coach, will most likely take over as head coach and Kurkjian couldn’t be more comfortable with that.

“He’s a popular guy and he works well with the kids,” Kurkjian said. “Volleyball is a sport you can grow with and I’m sure Witty will take it to whatever level he sees fit. He’s youthful and has lots of energy.”

Kurkjian says that he will always remember coaching the Michalski triplets –– Adrian, Austin, and Ian. “Triplets are pretty rare to begin with,” Kurkjian said. “What were the chances that they would all play volleyball?”

When the Michalskis were juniors in 2005, the Blackbirds made it to a regional match against Living Word. “Yes, that was actually the school’s name,” Kurkjian added. “I think they were religious.”

Voorheesville won the first two games and looked to be in control, but Living Word won a close third game and took the fourth game, too. “We got hosed in the fourth and then we found ourselves down six points in the final game,” Kurkjian said.

The Blackbirds came from behind to beat Living Word in overtime and that was Voorheesville’s first win in team history over an opponent outside of Section II. “It was the single greatest moment. Ever,” said Kurkjian.

Kurkjian really enjoyed coaching volleyball because it was about the whole team. “I played basketball and there’s always a couple guys that get all the attention,” he said. “With volleyball, it’s necessary for everyone to get involved and touch the ball.”

Also, the sport has many different dimensions –– serving, hitting, blocking, and diving. “You can play volleyball for a lifetime and never get hurt,” Kurkjian said.

If Witty needs some help coaching next year, Kurkjian probably won’t hesitate to lend an extra hand.

“I’m sure I’ll pop my head in the gym, especially if I’m still here coaching tennis,” Kurkjian said.

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