After an extended run as the county’s top program, Nature Coast volleyball has hit a rough patch the past two seasons.
Ben Crofchick believes he can change that downward trend, and has already gotten started.
Earlier this month, Crofchick, a 52-year-old Inverness resident, was officially hired to guide the Lady Sharks, replacing Emily Gore, who had stepped down after four seasons at the helm to focus on her duties as girls basketball head coach.
“He wants to take the kids to the next level, so we’re excited about that,” Nature Coast athletic director Kristin Peeples said. “The kids have already bought into what he’s doing. We’re getting great reviews on him already.”
Crofchick, who will also teach science at the school, brings more than 20 years of experience coaching volleyball at the high school, collegiate and club levels, primarily in Michigan. He also played in high school and during his time in the U.S. Navy.
A Pennsylvania native, he moved to Michigan in order to operate a chiropractic practice, but in the meantime pursued what he called his passion for teaching and coaching.
He has served as head coach at several public and private schools in Michigan and one in Georgia. He additionally was an assistant for one season at Glen Oaks Community College in Michigan.
More recently, he filled in as head baseball coach at Seven Rivers Christian in 2012, guiding the Warriors to a regional final in Class 2A.
According to Crofchick, latching on with the Lady Sharks was a stroke of destiny. His son plays baseball for Citrus High, and while attending a game at Nature Coast he bumped into a former JV player from his days at Michigan’s Colon High.
During that chance meeting, Crofchick learned of the volleyball opening.
He takes over a team that has gone 10-41 the past two years, a stark contrast to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in 2010-11 that capped an eight-year run of regional appearances.
“If the kids work the way I want them to, folks will see a relentless, pursuing defense. Never give up on the ball,” Crofchick said. “We’re going to be scrappy, tenacious, aggressive, and just play great defense.
“I’m known to be a defensive guy. Offense, you either have it or you don’t. You can always build up kids to be great defensive players if they’re willing to work hard.”
The work has already begun. Crofchick said he has anywhere from 22-42 girls Monday, Tuesday and Thursday showing up for open gyms.
While he stated his long-term goal would be to win a state championship, for now he simply wants to collect some more victories, and most pressingly start instilling fundamentals.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Crofchick said. “Coaches are great, but you’ve still got to have talent. There are definitely some areas we’re lacking at Nature Coast this year. There are some hurdles to overcome to become extremely competitive.
“But that’s what I’ve been known for. I come to teams that have struggled, are on hard times, are not playing well and get them going. I like going into a program that’s struggling and getting them going, and that’s what I want to do at Nature Coast.”
By the numbers: Nature Coast volleyball
Year Record Head coach
2003 3-21 Chris Mock
2004 16-8^ Maria Garcia
2005 12-13^ Maria Garcia
2006 11-11^ Maria Garcia/Aixa Crespo
2007 20-6# Dan Murphy
2008 24-4^ Dan Murphy
2009 21-9# Dan Murphy
2010 25-5#* Emily Gore
2011 25-3#* Emily Gore
2012 4-22 Emily Gore
2013 6-19 Emily Gore
# Denotes district championship
^ Denotes district runner-up
* Denotes regional final appearance