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Boys’ Volleyball Team Set To Take The Court Under Direction Of Former Hawk Champion



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Former Newtown High School volleyball standout Ardian Kodzodziku (Class of 2019), who helped lead the Nighthawks to consecutive South-West Conference championships in his junior and senior years, is going for more success with the Nighthawks in a different role.

Kodzodziku is the new head coach for the Nighthawks this spring, having come on board to lead the team for one season before plans to move abroad to play professionally in the Italian League in Rome later this summer. He hopes to have a positive impact on the squad and make the most of a brief tenure at NHS.

His goals are to work hard to put Newtown back on the path to success by integrating new technical training, aiding the team’s development in volleyball IQ/game sense, and working on mental toughness in a match setting. Kodzodziku also strives to “build a positive learning environment that is hardworking, focused, and goal driven.”

When all is said and done, the hope is to have reached the South-West Conference finals and hang another banner in the gym.

“I believe success comes from having a good process. You cannot become a winning team without a solid foundation and process. I believe to reach our goals we must develop a good process that includes strong technical training, a positive learning environment that is focused, visualization, and being an avid learner and lover of the game. Passion alongside all of those listed is what develops the best programs and athletes. If we are able to turn that process into Newtown’s team culture this season, we will be successful and a team to watch out for,” Kodzodziku said.

Captains are Charlie Hanson (outside attacker), A.J. Zatulskis (right side attacker), Nate Twitchell (outside attacker/middle blocker).

Other key players back in the fold are Matt Tomaj (setter), Elijah Sullivan (libero), Warner Bacon (middle blocker), Noel Mcleod (outside attacker), Kade Deraney (right side/outside attacker), Cole Sgagliardich (middle blocker), Timothy Via (right side attacker), and Max Mccarthy (middle blocker).

“A few of our greatest strengths are height and physicality at the net. With this in mind, I believe our team will be one of the most successful teams when it comes to the side-out attacking portion of volleyball. Not only will our attacking be a great strength due to our size at the net, but also our blocking. With some work, I believe our block will be one of the largest blocks in the state due to having guys ranging from heights 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-7 with some large wingspans,” the coach said.

Due to having a roster of players who were middle blockers in their club seasons, that left the Nighthawks with 70 percent of the team consisting of true middle blockers who are now taking on new roles as outside attackers and right side attackers, Kodzodziku said. “With that in mind, serve-receive is one area of the game that I think our team could improve at. However, I must say that all of my players that are new to serve-receive are learning at a tremendously fast rate. I truly believe that in a short amount of time our ‘weakness’ will turn into a strength throughout the season,” he added.

The SWC is loaded with talent with Joel Barlow of Redding and Pomperaug of Southbury likely being Newtown’s toughest competitors, Kodzodziku anticipates. The coach is excited to see what his team can accomplish.

“I am looking forward to the challenges the season brings and helping my players work through those said challenges. My philosophy when it comes to coaching and as a player myself is that mental training is just as important as the physical volleyball training we do,” the coach said. “If we can prioritize both equally, I am a firm believer that we will have a lot of success by turning our challenges into accomplishments.”

During his high school career, Kodzodziku played in the Mizuno East Volleyball Club and earned a USA Nationals bid along with four MVP awards in a row, concluding his career with the Coach’s Award. In the summer leading up to his senior year of high school, the standout player got to train with USA Volleyball at its youth training programs. Kodzodziku went on to play at Sacred Heart University. He has coached elite-level travel teams out of Northeast Volleyball Club in Norwalk for the last five years, helping grow the talent in Connecticut volleyball.

“As the new varsity coach of Newtown High School, I am beyond excited to give these players an amazing season. It is an honor to be able to work with such a talented and hardworking group of athletes. I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to pass down high level technical training and game IQ to an amazing group of young men that deserve nothing but success in their volleyball careers,” he said. “All I ask of my players in return is their ongoing hard work, focus, and passion. Passion is the main driver of success in every avenue of life.”

The regular season will begin Monday, April 1, with a visit to Stamford at 4 pm in the first of eight consecutive road tilts out of the gate. Newtown’s home opener is set for Wednesday, April 17, when Brookfield comes to town at 6 pm. The schedule features matches with nonconference opponents Stamford, New Canaan, Daniel Hand of Madison, Norwalk, Xavier of Middletown, Amity of Woodbridge, Shelton, and Cheshire.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Charlie Hanson hits the ball over the net during a home match this spring. —Bee Photo, Hutchison
Warner Bacon (No. 1) looks to get the ball past a pair of Kolbe Cathedral defenders during Newtown’s 3-1 win on April 20. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
Matt Tomaj sets the ball for a teammate.
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