Matt Hurlock, whose touch impacted a countless number of young lives as a teacher and coach in the Coventry school system, lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday when he passed away at the age of 39. Photo by Roxanne Pandolfi
Ashley Curtis, one of his former volleyball players who graduated from Coventry High School in 2008 and was named the Class S state championship Most Valuable Player the previous fall, summed it up best last year when she paused to say a few words about Matt Hurlock.
“The town of Coventry and this world is a better place because he’s in it,” Curtis said.
Hurlock, who guided the Coventry girls volleyball team to seven CIAC Class S state tournament titles in the last eight years, lost the biggest fight of his life on Wednesday, passing away after a nearly year-long battle with colon and liver cancer. He was 39.
Numerous messages of condolence from students, administrators, coaches and former players began to be posted early last night on a Facebook community page dedicated to Hurlock.
Among the messages included one by Hurlock’s former volleyball assistant coach, Jon Roberts.
“You always made me feel like we could do anything and, most of the time, you were right,” Roberts said. “Your legacy will live on through the countless people that you have touched, guided, taught, encouraged, loved and forced to be better than they thought they could be.”
Hurlock, who grew up in Mansfield, graduated from E.O. Smith High School in Storrs and then went on to earn a degree at Springfield College, had taken a leave of absence last fall from his job teaching physical education at Nathan Hale Middle School in Coventry after he was diagnosed with cancer last August.
“I wasn’t going to just sit at home when I could be here working with the girls and watching them play,” Hurlock said back in November prior to Coventry’s Class S girls volleyball title match against Morgan. “Coaching means a lot because it is one of the most important things in my life.”
Ryan Giberson, who coaches varsity baseball at Coventry, was an assistant volleyball coach under Hurlock last fall and often ran practices and coached several games with Hurlock undergoing chemotherapy treatments, had the utmost respect for his friend.
“Matt Hurlock exercised a level of commitment that was unparalleled,” Giberson said in an e-mail sent to the Chronicle late Wednesday night. “He was dedicated to his family, his students and his athletes.
“Coventry public schools and the surrounding community is, and will continue to be, a much better place because of him.”
Throughout this past winter, all schools in the North Central Connecticut Conference hosted Hoops for Hurlock nights, where all proceeds went to Hurlock and his family.
Over the course of the last decade, Hurlock, who started coaching volleyball at Coventry in 2001, helped build one of the top girls volleyball programs in the state, compiling an overall record of 206-19.
Since 2003, Coventry won 184 out of 187 matches and made eight consecutive Class S championship match appearances, winning seven titles (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) with four undefeated seasons (2006-2008, 2010) while also capturing five consecutive North Central Connecticut Conference regular-season and tourney titles.
Last November, Coventry capped off a 24-0 season with a 3-0 victory over the Morgan School in the Class S final at Glastonbury High School and also became the first small school to ever be voted the No. 1-ranked team in Connecticut.
In May, Hurlock was recognized by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association as the organization’s girls volleyball coach of the year at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. In 2009, Hurlock won the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance’s Doc McInerney High School coach of the year award.
Hurlock also coached the varsity boys basketball team at Coventry for 14 seasons before stepping down last fall. Over that time, the Patriots won two Charter Oak Conference tournament titles (1999, 2005), an NCCC tournament title (2009), made four CIAC state tournament semifinal appearances and had two undefeated regular seasons (2005 and 2009).
Hurlock is survived by his parents, Huber and Cynthia, his brother Mike, his wife Julie and the couple’s two children, Colby and Katelyn.
Funeral arrangements are still pending at this time.