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Frontier Grad Coaches at College Alma Mater

The following article appeared in the Hamburg Sun on September 20, 2019.

Local grad takes over alma mater

Frontier’s Fabian new women’s volleyball coach at D-II Le Moyne

By Dave Parish


When Lizzie Cheek stepped down as Le Moyne College’s women’s volleyball coach last winter, there was only one logical successor.

Frontier graduate Bethany Fabian was promoted from assistant coach to replace Cheek, under whom she served under as an assistant following her graduation from the Division II school in 2013.

It was a natural progression for Fabian, who starred for the Dolphins as an outside hitter. She ranks fifth all-time in serve percentage, sixth in digs, tied for seventh in matches played (107), 13th in kills and 14th in points (1015.5).

Despite all of her success on the court, the Lake View native said she never gave much thought to coaching until Cheek asked her. The two had played together when Cheek was a senior and Fabian was a freshman and then Cheek served as a grad assistant during Fabian’s junior and senior seasons.

“I have always enjoyed coaching,” Fabian said. “I used to help out with the younger players in high school. I never really thought about the possibility of coaching a college team until Lizzie asked.”

Fabian served as an assistant in 2014, a graduate assistant in 2015 and then back to being an assistant the past three seasons.

Fabian said that coming right off the court and into coaching was not that big a deal, despite the fact she was now responsible for guiding some of the girls she had been playing next to just a year earlier.

“Most of my closest friends were in my year, so I never found it awkward,” she said. “I have always had a pretty good head for the game and my teammates respected that even when I was still playing.”

Plus, she already had the built-in advantage of a close relationship with Cheek. So it was a learning experience for both women.

“We just really learned the ropes together as we were both new to coaching,” Fabian said. “She consulted me on every major decision.”

The partnership is especially strong in the recruiting process, according to Fabian, who says that she would often sort through the emails and letters first before passing them on to Cheek.

“I tended to be harsher than Lizzie,” Fabian said. “I was just pickier about the talent level of the players.”

Whatever formula Cheek and Fabian concocted worked.

Le Moyne posted a 90-66 record in their six seasons together, highlighted by a 20-win campaign in 2015 when Le Moyne advanced to the Northeast-10 Conference semifinals for the first time in nine years. The Lady Dolphins had an even more successful 2016, recording 22 wins and advancing to their first-ever D-II NCAA tournament.

Despite losing in the first round to American International College, Fabian said it was tremendous experience to be a part of and was a culmination of what her and Cheek had been trying to accomplish as both teammates and coaches.

“It was a fun year,” she said. “The girls were really close and that helped us win a lot of matches. The experience really just reinforced our belief that developing a strong team chemistry was necessary for the success of our program.”

Fabian also felt that her quick rise from player to head coach has allowed her to keep her more in touch with the players thought process, allowing her to get the most out of their play.

“The most important thing I learned as an assistant was how to deal with different personalities on the team,” she said. “I have to figure out various ways to reach players in order to get the very best out of them.”

That helped Fabian develop what she believes to be her greatest attribute as a head coach – creativity.

“To avoid monotony, I always try to make my practices different,” she said. “I have to figure out various ways to reach players in order to get the very best out of them. Every year requires new tactics because it takes time to get to know the freshmen that join the team.”

Fabian also credits some of her earlier coaches with inspiring her, including former Eden and club coach Stephen Pierce and Frontier head coach Debbie Schruefer.

As she moves on to her first head-coaching assignment, Fabian is looking forward to the opportunity to build on her previous playing and coaching experience. She knows she has big shoes to fill with Cheek and Ken King, who coached Le Moyne for 22 seasons prior to Cheek.

“I have a lot to live up to,” she said. “But I am optimistic I can keep things going in the right direction.”