By BURT ANGELI
FLORENCE, Wis. - Trudy Rochon loves Florence.
Daily News Photo
Trudy Rochon shares a laugh with two of her “wonderful, wonderful girls.”
The feeling will be reciprocated this afternoon by her many friends and former volleyball players.
Trudy's Tribute Tournament, featuring her volleyball players from the past 20-plus years, will take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. today in the high school gym.
"I truly love each and every one of those girls," Rochon said after Florence bowed to Goodman-Pembine in this season's regional finals. "I care that much about them and they know that. They give me the very best that they have."
Rochon, Florence's head volleyball coach since 1992, confirmed her retirement after the regional.
"I love this game. I love coaching. I love this school. I love this community ," Rochon said. "We have the best fans here, better than anywhere. I will take Florence fans anywhere. What a treat to do your job in front of that."
Rochon began coaching at the junior varsity level in the 1980s. Since her varsity debut in 1992, Florence has produced 15 Northern Lakes Conference championships and seven regional titles.
Some of Florence's best battles have come against Niagara and Coach Carol St. Arnauld. An August 2012 match went five sets to the Badgers but Rochon's Bobcats won the first set in a marathon 36-34 finish.
"I have a lot of admiration for Trudy as a person and coach," St. Arnauld said. "From when she first started to where she is now, Trudy really learned the game and is one of the best coaches in the area.
"I enjoyed playing against her. You always want to beat each other, but there's also a mutual love and respect. She's going to be missed."
Junior varsity coach Joan Canfield has been by Rochon's side for 16 years.
"Trudy is such a great person and friend," Canfield said. "We became good friends the day I started coaching with her. I have nothing but respect and love for this woman."
Canfield has taken away plenty from working with Rochon. One aspect stands out, though.
"If I had to name one thing I've learned from Trudy is to coach the whole athlete, not just to win games," Canfield said. "I'm a very competitive person and winning games is important. But sometimes we need to step back and look at the girl who works hard and has heart and maybe isn't the most natural athlete but one who will give her soul for her teammates and coach.
"This is the girl we want on the floor. Some people would think this sacrifices wins but in the long run it teaches young people that if you work hard and you care, you'll be a winner."
Canfield adds that "Trudy has the talent to pull every ounce of skill out of her players."
But that wasn't her primary goal.
"It's never about me," said Rochon when asked about past accomplishments. "I'm just focusing on what the kids are doing. My focus has always wanted them to be role models.
"Trust me, that has happened. I have had wonderful, wonderful girls that I'm very proud to call my "pseudo" mom."
Look for her many "daughters" in the Florence High School gym this afternoon. Participants will receive a T-shirt to commemorate the day.
The community is also urged to attend. There will be no cost for admission but a donation to the Florence Athletic Booster Club would be appreciated.