HS VOLLEYBALL: Coaching changes fail to slow down Macon East quest for another title
By Tim Gayle
CECIL — When you’re the five-time defending state champion, your head coaching position should be a coveted one.
But as Macon-East Academy continues its drive for a sixth straight AISA volleyball championship, it does so with its third coach. Actually, four if you count the fact that Codi Moon and Dragana Cvoric are co-coaches.
“I’ve been a part of the last couple (of championships) in softball so I know what it’s like for new players walking into our softball program,” she said. “So for me as a coach, it was way outside of my comfort zone. We lost five seniors (from last year’s team) so we only have one girl who played on the floor in those championship games. The six that we have, have never been on the floor together and in the first couple of games you could tell. But they’ve gotten better in every game that they’ve played in. It’s amazing how far they’ve come in just a couple of weeks.”
Macon East faces Bessemer Academy on Thursday in the AISA Class AA State tourney semifinals at Faulkner’s Tine Davis Gym.
The 2016 season took a strange turn just before the start of the school year when Macon-East soccer coach Peter Baubles and his wife Amanda, the volleyball coach, announced they were leaving for another job.
“A week before, maybe a week and a half before, they told us they were moving to Georgia so we scrambled (to find a replacement) and Codi stepped in for that,” said Macon-East headmaster Glynn Lott. “We found someone that fit because we had an English (teaching) job that was open. We did that for four or five days but it just did not work out. She was commuting back and forth and it didn’t work out for us.
“We went a couple more days and that’s when we hired Dragana Cvoric. We made a mistake in the (previous) hiring, then we were able to find her and after that it’s been fairly stable.”
Moon admitted August was a difficult month for the players.
“We’ve had many talks at the beginning of the year,” she said. “After the mess that we had, the girls were an emotional wreck because we were starting volleyball season and all they had was me. They knew we weren’t going to hire just anybody to fill the position. They knew that I could control what I needed to control, but they were going to have to work hard to control what they could. They’ve stayed together and I think they’ve gotten stronger because of it.”
As it turned out, Cvoric wasn’t the final answer, at least not this season, because the former two-year volleyball player at Alabama State is still completing work on her master’s degree.
“She’s been great,” Moon said. “She’s still working on her master’s so she hasn’t been here every day, she’s not there for a lot of games, but we knew that going into it and she’s here to handle the fundamental work, the mental stuff. She coaches them up during practice to give them what they need for the game, plus I’m learning from her, too.”
The Knights (8-1) have won seven consecutive matches, rebounding in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year as only senior Sami Nesbitt has any starting experience on the 2015 championship team. Another aspect in the rebuilding process is the concept of co-coaches.
“It’s been good for us because we complement each other well,” Moon said. “I know how to be a coach, I just don’t know how to play volleyball. She knew how to play volleyball, but didn’t know how to be a coach. She’ll give them criticism and instruction as far as the game goes and I kind of do the discipline-type stuff and the motivation.
“This is something I never would have volunteered to do. It was never something I played in high school. I played softball year-round. With that said, I wouldn’t take it back now. It’s been a blast, a lot better than I ever imagined it would be.”