New coach takes over for Lady Eagles volleyball

Posted Monday, Jul. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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In its first year as a program, the Lake Ridge volleyball team fought its way to the playoffs and then advanced to the regional quarterfinals. The 2013 Lady Eagles lose only one senior from that squad, but they’re also entering next season with a different head coach.

Jessica Eickenloff, who steered Lake Ridge to an impressive inaugural season, is expecting a baby later this summer and resigned her position. Stepping in to take the reins is Jessica Tyler, a familiar face for many of the Lady Eagles players because she worked with them while serving on the staff at Timberview for eight years.

“I think it will be challenging, yet fulfilling,” Tyler said. “We’ve got a lot of young players returning that are good players.”

Her familiarity with the players should help ease the transition that often comes with a new coaching staff.

“I think knowing some of the kids and knowing their athletic ability, and actually seeing some of them play this year, helps me to design an offense and defense that kind of goes around their athletic ability and talent,” she said.

Senior setter Colbi Bennett is one of those who worked with Tyler at Timberview, and she agrees the transition should be a smooth one, though it’s hard to get past the fact that the entire coaching staff is getting a makeover.

“Coach [Eickenloff] was such a great coach, so it’s going to be a huge change, not only because we lost our head coach, but we also lost our varsity assistant and they’re moving a lot of different coaches around,” Bennett said.

“I think it will come pretty quickly,” she added. “Some of us came from Timberview, and Coach Tyler was an assistant there, so a lot of us already know her. So, I don’t think it’ll be that difficult. I think we’ll be fine.”

It should also help the transition that the entire roster, save for one senior outside hitter, will return for 2013.

“We’re going to be pretty good,” Bennett said. “We’re also bringing up two new freshmen that are very good, so one of them will take the spot of the senior that graduated.”

After setting a high bar for success in their first season, the Lady Eagles could be excused for assuming things will be even better this year, but Tyler doesn’t worry about their work ethic.

“I don’t at all,” she said. “I say that because we’ve already been working hard this summer. They’ve already been playing in summer leagues. We’ve got three that just played in nationals. Also, we run a strength and conditioning program and they’re up there working every day at 7:30. So, I don’t feel like any of these kids, with their personalities, are going to be complacent about anything.”

Former coach Eickenloff reinforces Tyler’s assessment of the team’s hard-nosed personality.

“I think they figured out early that in order to have success – any success really – they were going to have to out-work everyone we played to make up for our youth and inexperience,” Eickenloff said. “And they were just an awesome group of girls and they did that. From the beginning, anything that our staff asked them to do, they bought in and they did. They just worked their butts off.

“I feel like if they can really keep up the work ethic that they bought into last year, there’s no reason that they can’t have even more success next year,” she added.

Despite the familiarity with the coach, there will still be some natural growing pains heading into the season. Tyler will implement her own offensive and defensive schemes that the team must adjust to and learn.

“I think we’ll get off to a good start, but of course there will be a bit of a change for them coaching wise – expectations, the offense and defense and things like that. All of that stuff changes with a new coach,” Tyler said. “But I expect these kids to pick it up pretty quickly and do well from the beginning.”

“I expect them to be able to compete in every match,” she added. “I would love to come out and make the playoffs again.”

Bennett knows replicating last year’s success isn’t a given, but believes the Lady Eagles have everything in place to build on the program’s solid foundation.

“Last year was an amazing year, and it’s really hard to go further than the third round,” she said. “But I think we’ll go as far or further.”

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