Matt Miller put the Hillsdale Academy volleyball program on the map and now a former Charger volleyball star will try and keep the Colts on it.
After many memorable postseason runs Miller stepped down as the head coach last spring to focus on other opportunities and Academy athletic director Mike Roberts went abroad to bring in someone familiar with the program.
Canadian Katherine Jones was a middle hitter for Chris Gravel at the college from 2003-06, she taught some classes at the Academy as part of her college education, and now she is taking the reigns of a Colts program that expects to compete for an SCAA title this year.
The teams’ first games of record under Jones began this morning, as the team traveled to the Tecumseh Invite.
Jones taught and coached volleyball at her former high school in Canada last year, which is home to over 1,800 students, and she wasn’t so sure about applying for the spot when her former college coach first informed her of it. But after some deliberation she warmed up to the idea, and it didn’t hurt that her now fiancé lives in the area.
“When I was down here playing volleyball at the college I knew all the girls from the Academy. They would come to our camps and I taught P.E. (at the Academy) for a while for one of my classes and I also helped in a physics class,” she said. “I really liked the kids there and I thought about it a little more and thought it would be a great opportunity to come down here and coach awesome kids and teach at a really good school.”
Robert said Jones has all the intangibles he was looking for and he is pleased with the fruits of a search that never reached a public level.
“She’s going to connect really well with the girls. She really has the perfect blend of experience you’re looking for,” he said. “You want that young energy, which will really help her connect with the girls, but she also has experience — she played college volleyball, as a student teacher at Hillsdale she was a seventh- or eighth-grade volleyball coach, and then she had a year of varsity coaching experience under her belt.”
Roberts admits he tried to convince Miller to stay on for another season, but there are no hard feelings about the separation and the two remain good friends. Miller still works for Hillsdale College in the information systems department and Roberts thinks he’ll stay involved in volleyball in one fashion or another.
“He has some other opportunities, both with playing volleyball, which he still does quite a bit,” Roberts said. “He even did have an initial opportunity to be an assistant coach at Siena Heights University, which was part of his decision, but it looks like his work schedule might keep him too busy to do it.”
As for the Academy’s future, Jones said the transition has been fairly smooth for her and the players, in part because she believes in many of the same tactics as Miller.
“I think (the girls) have transitioned very, very well,” she said. “I have a lot of the same philosophies Matt did as a coach and we use some of the same drills, so it’s not that big of a change.”
Jones said she expects to have success with this group, but does not feel pressure to meet certain goals just because of what the program has accomplished the past few years.
To Jones coaching is about more than the winning percentage, it is about how hard you work to accomplish what you want and how you present yourself in the process.
“I know we’re going to lose some probably, everybody does,” she said. “Winning is not going to be everything for us — one of our biggest focuses is playing to glorify God, using what He gave us to show everybody winning isn’t everything.”
Jones will be a part-time math and physical education teacher when the school year starts, to supplement her coaching duties.