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Desmond Conner | The Hartford Courant | October 19, 2017

Husband and wife coaches compete for first time at Wesleyan and Johnson and Wales

  It's a rivalry like no other when husband and wife clash in NCAA women's volleyball.

Somebody is going to have bragging rights in the house for a while when it's over, but Ben and Nancy Somera were cool and, well, coach-like for the most part this week.

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"It would be real nice to sit in our living room and not have to take any flak," Ben Somera said, laughing, but he wasn't kidding.

Ben is in his third season as the Wesleyan women's volleyball coach. Nancy has been the coach at Johnson & Wales since 2014.

Ben and Nancy, who live in Rhode Island, have been married 21 years. They've been on volleyball coaching staffs together at the University of Southern California, where they both went to school, and Ben was Nancy's associate head coach at Oregon State and South Carolina.

On Thursday night at 7, at Wesleyan, the Someras will face each other for the first time as head coaches.

"Oh yeah, she'd give it me, for sure," Ben said. "Our family is pretty competitive and it doesn't matter if it's ping-pong, bridge, dominoes, there's always some squawkin' and talkin.'"

Count on the end result either way and count on the Someras' son Sam, a junior at Syracuse on the track team, and daughter Maile, a junior on the volleyball team at Barrington High, to get in on the action, too.

"There's not a whole lot we do in our family where the score is not kept," Ben said. "I wash cars better than you. I wash dishes better than you. I fold laundry better than you. Don't fold my laundry. I do my own laundry because I told her I didn't like the way she folded my clothes. So she's like, 'Do it yourself.' And our kids are a part of that as well."

It's been all business this week. There was an exchange of game film but that was about it.

"We both know each other's teams pretty well and I think we know each other's coaching style pretty well and kind of what we like to do in matches and how we like to coach in matches," Nancy said. "It's going to be a little bit of a chess match, I think, like, 'What's he going to do? What am I going to do? How are we going to counter that?' I mean, in the end, you're pretty limited in how you can affect the game as a coach. There's only so many things you can do. It's going to come down to which team is stronger on the court."

Johnson & Wales is the No. 14 team in Division III. Wesleyan (16-2) is sitting just outside the Top 25. The teams were actually scheduled to meet in the Guisler Invitational at No. 19 Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., this weekend before the Someras came up with a two-heads-are-better-than-one idea.

"The schedule initially had us playing each other on Friday night so we were talking, 'Why do we need to drive out to Pennsylvania to play each other on a Friday night? Why not just play each other in the area and then go to the tournament and play the other teams and save a night in a hotel?' That's kind of how it came about," Nancy said.

Bragging rights will be had at home, but these two top New England teams are going to benefit from this game in other ways.

"I'm looking forward to playing against a quality opponent who has the capabilities of exposing some of our weaknesses and helping us get better as we head into the playoffs," Nancy said.

But ...

"It's another opponent on our schedule, but obviously we sit at home and talk about our teams, so I think there's a little more inside information that they might have and we might have. But our systems are pretty similar and what we try to do is similar, so it ought to be a fun match," said Ben, who stays in Connecticut sometimes to avoid commuting every day.

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What can already be determined is the Someras are leading solid programs. The Cardinals went 15-8 overall and 6-4 in the New England School College Athletic Conference to turn in their best season since 2008. Nancy guided the Wildcats to a 33-0 record last season, to the NCAA Tournament, and was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference and D-III New England Region Coach of the Year.

Going forward, this may become an annual game between the teams, which the coaches would like. They enjoyed coaching on the same staffs together, but they enjoy running their own programs more.

"In three years, he's turned their program completely around," Nancy said. "It's been fun for both of us as our programs continue to get better and kind of support each other in ways that we can."

This article is written by Desmond Conner from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.