Editorial: A New Beginning for Vulcan Volleyball
Welcoming Coach Gene Krieger
Sports Writer Trixie Croad, and UH Hilo Women’s Volleyball
A few days after our season finished in mid-November last year, it felt like a bomb hit our volleyball program when our coach, Tino Reyes, was fired. The path ahead was suddenly empty and for the next few months we wandered, waiting for someone to appear and show us the way. We stressed over when a new coach would be appointed, who it would be and what this meant for our next season.
This time was really difficult for everyone on our team, especially for seniors like me, whose last season seemed to be in jeopardy. As a collegiate volleyball player, your head coach is a defining figure in your life. This is the person who dictates your daily schedule, 2 to 4 hours of each day is spent under the instruction of this one individual and so to have that position absent waiting to be filled is an uneasy time filled with anticipation and uncertainty.
Upon the return from Christmas break, the two months of spring training was an uphill battle. Haylee Roberts describes the atmosphere: “During the team’s few months stint without a coach, there were a lot of things that took place behind the scenes. As a whole, the team was working hard to try and prepare for our new leader to arrive, but it wasn’t easy to hold each other accountable. I was in charge of the scheduling for workouts and practices and we did our best to get in shape and fine tune our skills as we impatiently awaited the arrival of the person that would change our program forever. There was such a reliance on one another to be working hard and doing the things we were supposed to. Overall, the team improved and we can be proud of efforts for January and February as we awaited our coach.” Hopefully this time of increased adversity has brought some solidarity to our team that will transfer over into the next chapter.
Luckily, we had some really awesome volunteers who were willing to take the time to help us out; one of our assistant coaches, Chris Leonard, took some skills practices with us. Despite running six radio stations and coaching club teams, he somehow found time for us and for that we are truly grateful. Last year’s captain Sienna Davis helped us a lot, taking care of paperwork and was always attending conditioning sessions to push us that little bit harder. Sienna, along with the rest of last season’s seniors, or ‘the old ladies’ as they are affectionately called, have been coming to open gym sessions with us, along with a few guys around campus who play which really lifted the standard. All this help has meant we have been able to keep the program intact until our new coach was appointed.
Finally, after much anticipation, the next chapter has arrived! On Mar. 6, Gene Krieger had taken over as the head coach of the UH Hilo Women’s Volleyball program. Haylee was the student representative on the hiring committee and explains the process, “I was apart of the hiring committee for the new coach. There were many amazing candidates that far exceeded the committee’s expectations. Gene Krieger was the candidate chosen by Patrick Guillen, the school’s AD [athletics director], and was the perfect choice to provide us with a new beginning and the chance to change Vulcan Volleyball for the better.”
If there is one word I could use that would describe our first impression of Coach Krieger, it would be: prepared. Before he even stepped in the gym, he was hitting the ground running, building the foundations for what is to come.
Mina Grant describes the first encounter: “From the moment Coach Krieger stepped into the classroom we were congregated in, the excitement was tangible from everyone, including me. I believe we are very fortunate to have Coach Krieger on our side of the net. It's easy to see from our first meeting that he is well organized and ready to work hard alongside us. At the press conference he indulged us with his stories of competition and I honestly couldn’t be happier that he is our new head coach.”
The very first thing coach Krieger did when we met him in that classroom was shake each and every one of our hands, already having memorized our names and faces - along with our positions, and where we’re from. He told us we had practice in two hours’ time, that he had already been talking to several recruits, and that “a paradigm shift for who and what we are is about to occur.”
I think it's fair to say everyone in the room was blown away as the reality set in that we were no longer in limbo; our feet were firmly on the ground and we were already moving forward, even though we had only known the guy less than 20 minutes.
The first week of practice has been a wake up call and an inspiration to start taking ourselves seriously again. Siera Green describes our first week of practice: “It was pretty clear from the get-go that things were going to be a lot different than they were in the past. Coach Krieger didn’t waste any time getting us moving and talking about how we wanted our program to look. We had practice every day, individual skills work some days before practice, and weightlifting in the mornings. There is a lot of focus on fitness and getting everyone into better shape so that we will be ready to play. The first week was difficult, trying to figure out how to juggle this new schedule with everything else going on in life but I feel like we all got the hang of it pretty quickly. We are all putting in a lot of time, work, and sweat into improving together.” The first week was grueling and extremely rewarding. After just a week I can already feel improvements in my form which makes me so excited for all the progress that is to come.
This transition of coaching staff has been a tough journey for the players of the UH Hilo Vulcans Volleyball team, but with the first week of the rest of our careers behind us, it feels like we are finally out the other end and ready to get stuck in with an even stronger, more determined and appreciative understanding what it takes for us to be a successful team. The buzz around Coach Krieger’s appointment has us excited for what the future holds.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors.