Head coach Bob Bertucci speaks to the Lehigh volleyball team. Bertucci will be retiring after the 2017 season. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

One last ride: Bertucci to step down as Lehigh volleyball coach after season

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After seven years of coaching and tallying over 100 career wins at the program, Lehigh volleyball coach Bob Bertucci is stepping down from the head coaching position at the end of this season.

The decision was announced at the end of the spring semester and came after the Mountain Hawks finished 13-17 overall and 8-8 in the Patriot League play last season. It was the first time Lehigh failed to notch a winning record in Patriot League play under Bertucci.

Bertucci has built an extensive resume at the helm of Lehigh volleyball. The Mountain Hawks have never missed the Patriot League Tournament under Bertucci and he’s coached four different Patriot League Libero of the Year honorees. He ranks third all-time in wins as a coach and helped take Lehigh to the Patriot League Championship game in 2014, while also earning Patriot League Coach of the Year honors.

Despite approaching the end of his coaching career, Bertucci still has his sights set on improving his team every day.

“Actually, I’m not even thinking about (leaving) right now, that’s really not a concern,” Bertucci said. “What I want the focus to be is on our team and the preparation and the work we’ve been doing.”

Lehigh puts a veteran lineup on the court with plenty of leadership. Bertucci said junior Emily Develle has been both a proven leader for the team and the glue holding it together.

The Mountain Hawks have jumped out to a 4-3 record, with their most recent win a 3-0 victory over Norfolk State University. Even though the win comes with a lot of breathing room, Develle said there is still room to improve.

“We are really focused on fast and clean transitions throughout the whole game and that’s definitely our focus,” Develle said. “It’s still something we need to improve on, but we are definitely getting there.”

The Mountain Hawks will be tested against top-tier competition with an upcoming three-team invitational at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. The team will face off against Duke University and Texas Christian University, who are No. 62 and 21, respectively, in the NCAA RPI (strength of schedule) rankings. Lehigh is ranked 241.

The challenges facing the Mountain Hawks will test the team as it prepares for league play beginning Sept. 22.

“I think the team has some great potential,” Bertucci said. “There are times when we have absolutely great plays, where we control the ball very well, and when we do that we really look good. Then there are the simple things that we kind of fumble, and it’s learning how to stay engaged the whole time throughout the whole rally and always anticipate what’s going to happen next, and that’s going to just take some time.”

The Mountain Hawks have consistently made the Patriot League Tournament under Bertucci and they made the playoffs for five consecutive years from 2011 to 2015. More recently they have a combined record of 33-15 in conference play in their previous three seasons.

“It’s been good to have consistency and just him working with us,” senior Kelly Bennett said. “As each year changes, so does the team and since I came in as a freshman our team has looked completely different, so he has been able to adjust our team and cater to our team’s needs.”

Following the TCU Invitational, Lehigh will host Villanova University at the Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall before heading to the team’s final invitational of the year at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Looking ahead, the Mountain Hawks athletic administration is not focused on the future of the program, and athletic director Joe Sterrett is focusing on the current season. Sterrett said in terms of recruiting coaches, making the spring announcement of Bertucci’s departure helped the administration remain transparent.

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