“It was probably about three games in when I stared to feel comfortable,” Dean said. “During that game, our coach then (Dave Kuykendall) pulled me aside and yelled at me for being too nervous. He told me, ‘You are better than most of the guys on the court. Play like it.’
“After that, I started playing the girls game that came naturally to me, and it worked.”
Dean finished his freshman campaign in impressive fashion, placing fifth on the team with 97 digs, 178 serves received successfully and 12 aces.
But his greatest memory turned out to be a loss, when the No. 12 Golden Warriors nearly shocked top-seeded Haverhill in the Division 1 North tournament.
“We went to (the maximum) five games and it was just incredible,” he said. “Half of their team played Division 1 volleyball and it was so close. It was nearly an upset and I was just hooked. I loved it.”
Dean continued to break out as a sophomore, earning All-Merrimack Valley Conference honors. Again playing libero, he led the Warriors with 281 serves received and was third in digs (163) and aces (27).
But he faced a new challenge heading into last season, as Kuykendall stepped down as coach due to work commitments and football coach E.J. Perry, a former state volleyball champion coach in Salem, N.H., took over as head man.
“We really went in not knowing what to expect,” Dean said. “I had talked to my friends from Salem and they said he was very intense. I was nervous. It was almost like going back to my freshman year and trying out again. But it soon became natural with Coach Perry.”
The transition to Perry didn’t slow Dean. Moving to outside hitter, he averaged 15 kills, six digs and four blocks each match, again earning All-MVC honors.