Lady Cougars motivated by yet another coaching change

Posted Monday, Aug. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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In high school sports, rosters change every year. Senior classes graduate and underclassmen move up. Coaches, however, tend to stay longer.

That is not the recent trend for the Seguin volleyball team. As players begin fall camp this week, they’ll be under the direction of their third new coach in three years.

Lauren Otto took over for Amanda Shingleton before the 2012 season. Late last month she accepted an assistant-coaching position at TCU, where she was a standout player from 2006 to 2009. That left the Lady Cougars without a head coach just a few weeks before tryouts.

“My initial thoughts were, ‘Wow, again? We just had a new coach last year,’” senior captain Alexandria Hoang said. “At first I was a little shocked and upset, but then it just motivated me more to work harder and try to bring my team together.”

Without much time for the athletic department to search for and interview potential candidates, assistant coach Katra Ridgeway went to department officials and proposed that she take the reins.

“I went home and started thinking about the kids,” Ridgeway said. “Being the eleventh hour, who were we going to find? So I called the athletic director and athletic coordinator the next day and proposed to them that I be interim volleyball coach. If we find someone else more qualified, by all means give it to them, but if we were just going to give the job to just anybody to fill it, I thought we couldn’t do that to the kids.”

So with the first match of the season looming next week, Ridgeway finds herself in unfamiliar territory as a varsity coach. She served as the assistant the last two years and as a freshman coach previously.

Ridgeway is familiar with Seguin. She had been the cross-country and track coach since the school opened. Assuming control of the volleyball program meant having to step down from leading the track program.

While she was a little reluctant at first, her decision was made easier by the fact that her husband will step in to fill her void with the runners.

“So I’m still a part of that,” she said. “But I’m excited about taking this volleyball team in a different direction.”

Initially, Ridgeway second-guessed her decision, but that soon wore off.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “At first I was really overwhelmed, but with each day my confidence is growing. I’m hoping [the previous coaches] taught me enough to be able to make this transition and make it as easy as possible for the girls. That’s the priority right now.”

One of Ridgeway’s first tasks will be to choose the varsity squad. After two years of being an assistant, she’s familiar with the returning players, including Hoang, whose position is libero.

“I’m expecting her to lead the team and be my general on the floor,” Ridgeway said.

Hoang will be joined on the court by talented underclassmen in junior setter Laurynn McGowen and two sophomores: defensive specialist Jessica Ochoa and outside hitter Aubrey Ridgeway, her daughter, who gained varsity experience as freshmen last season.

“I think the one who may surprise everybody is junior middle blocker Taylor Piper, who was moved up at the end of last season,” Ridgeway said.

The new coach won’t try to shake things up this close to the beginning of the season.

“Early on I’m going to try to keep things simple,” she said. “Otto came in and changed the system from Shingleton, so the kids have just learned a new system. I’m going to start off trying to keep it the same. I can say I’m going to try to play a lot faster offensively. I’m going to try to catch some people off-guard. We’re not good passers, so ball control will be a focus for us. We lost a lot of height, so we don’t have that block we had last year. We have to be able to dig the ball because our blockers may not be able to throw the ball down as much.”

Hoang believes that the experience of the two previous coaching changes will help the team weather this one without too much disruption, and she’s convinced that regardless of whom coaches on the sidelines, her team will be improved from last season’s seven-win club.

“I think this has only motivated us to work harder,” Hoang said. “We’re basically the same team [from last year]. A lot of us are returning, so this is our team. The coach helps us and puts us through drills and sets a lineup, but it’s the team that actually plays the games and wins the games. As long as we stick together, work hard and play our game, we’ll pull through this on top.

“We went over what could have gone better last year and made that our main focus,” she added. “Coming into this season, it’s going to be ‘no drama, team before me,’ and we’re going to just keep improving. The freshman class from last year are really competitive and really talented. I think our newcomers are going to be really good.”

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