Lady Elkers volleyball coaches proud of their teams

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

While it wasn’t the season they had hoped for first-year Lady Elkers varsity volleyball coach Kayleen Porter and junior varsity coach Heidi Thomas couldn’t be prouder of their teams. They expressed their appreciation to the players and parents at a season-ending banquet on Nov. 11 at the Royal Motel.

No Ridgway team was more affected by COVID-19 than the group of young ladies who finished 2-8 at both levels and had five games canceled due to COVID precautionary measures. The cancelations led to match inactivity which made things tough for the squads to get on a consistent roll.

Regardless of the results, a strong, family bond was formed between the players and coaches who also included assistants Hayley Barnes and Ashton Watts. In the process, they also had as the coaches and players often said – F-U-N.

“We came to that gym with a purpose as a team and a purpose as every individual to get better by the end of the season. We became a family in that gym and we had F.U.N,” Porter said while addressing the team and parents. “They came out in July when we were allowed to go ahead and they kept playing and working and working until volleyball was taken away from us at the end of the season when we had no more games (final game at ECC canceled),” she added.

Twice the Ridgway girls had week-long stretches where they went without a match, making it tough to find consistency in their gameplay but according to Porter – “they never gave up.” The lack of matches and the restrictions in practice which forced the varsity and JV to practice on separate sides of the gym made it tough to simulate game conditions, but the enthusiasm did not wane.
“All these players did weeks and weeks of preparation for the season and their game showed it – not their record. Our record was our record but it does not show the heart, the love, and the talent in every single one of the varsity players every single time they stepped out on the court. That’s what makes me and the rest of the coaches want to coach this team,” Porter said.

Thomas agreed while speaking of her JV squad. “The girls showed up, worked hard, and showed a true passion for the sport. As a coach I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls for my first year of coaching volleyball,” she said while also emphasizing her team can't be judged by wins and losses. “The numbers, in this case, aren’t an accurate reflection of our season. I’ve always believed the best seasons are the seasons when most of the girls improved and I’m proud to say that I feel like we truly did that,” she added.

A common denominator for all involved was the love of the sport - something Porter stressed from day one. “I said the first time they walked onto the court. ‘If you don’t love the sport this is not going to be fun and you’re not going to want to be here’. Every single girl around the table loves the sport and that’s what we asked,” she said.

Thomas praised the efforts of all involved and feels the hardships of 2020 will prep the girls for future success on and off the court.

“You can choose your work ethic. I once read an article by a well-known, local coach who said ‘you can choose to outwork anyone.’ I truly believe that it’s true not only in volleyball but in all aspects of life,” she said while encouraging the girls to practice whenever they can.
Before announcing the Best Defensive, Best Offensive, and Most Improved Player awards Porter discussed how difficult it was to make a final decision.

“I think everybody on my varsity team deserves an award. We worked together, busted our butts every day in practice and in games, and they all deserve a reward – an award from me as a coach. Thank you for making the season the best we could make it,” she said before naming seniors Evelyn Cobaugh (defensive), Keyona Gardner (offensive), and Lexie Cherry (most improved) as the recipients.

Both coaches praised the contributions of Barnes and Watts.

“Hayley certainly made this season a whole lot of fun. We could always count on her to share some unique drills with us. I’m sure the girls will be practicing them,” said Thomas of Barnes who was acknowledged for jumping onto the court when a player was needed.

The two mentors appreciated the youthfulness Watts brought to the team as well. “Ashton helped allow the players to think they could do more than what they thought they could do,” said Porter. Thomas noted the assistant’s “newfound approach with this group of old coaches,” was a huge asset.

The JV coach also took time to thank Porter for being “the most supportive head coach I’ve ever worked for. Your positive approach and sense of humor made this season F-U-N,” Thomas said.

While finishing her address Porter reflected on her special group of student-athletes. “They were my kids for four months and I enjoyed every one of them equally. They all brought me something different to practice and games that I absolutely loved. It’s sad to see my seniors leave but I can’t wait to see what this program brings down the road,” she said.

The Varsity coach reflected on her first season and things to help the “family” of players and coaches move towards a bright future.

“I wish the season could have been longer. Even though it was a shortened season it was everything I wanted it to be despite it not being normal. I learned I’m a young coach and inexperienced but both Heidi and I have started looking for coaching clinics to become better. As soon as we can get back into the gym we want to get ready to start next season,” she said.

2020 Lady Elkers

Seniors: Evelyn Cobaugh, Lexie Cherry, Maddie Cherry, Chloe Frank, Keyona Gardner, Chloe Keslar, Shaylee Patterson, and Jenna Pavlock.

Juniors: Karissa Carlson, Payton Delhunty, Priscilla Ehrensberger, Julia Fullem, Elizabeth Geyer, Jessica Gilmore, Marissa Gulnac, and Carli Thomas.

Sophomores: Rhianna Cherry, Hannah Miller, Kaylee Reynolds, Alesha Sherry, and Alayna Viglione.

Freshmen: Bridgette Breindel, Brook Bullers, Ashelyn Coder, Celeste Cristini, Isabella Ehrensberger, Kristen Ellenberger, Kelly Matha, Mikala Sullivan, and Anin Truchan.