In 2018, the Eastbrook Panthers collected 13 wins and improved in nearly every area. They increased their win total by six from the previous season and continued to move the program in the right direction.
But the team will have a much different look in 2019, starting at the very top.
After serving as an assistant coach last year, and after coaching for two years at the Grant County Volleyball Club, Bailie Havens takes the reigns of the Eastbrook volleyball program, looking to build on the foundation that former coach Kelly Rupert left behind.
“My goal is, first of all, to give them a little sense of stability. They’ve had a couple of coaches over the last few years,” Havens said. “And I also want to help build the program a little bit further. I want to get the youth involved, and I want to get more kids coming out and wanting to be involved in volleyball. Right now, we have a small group, and I really want that to grow.”
Rupert informed Havens in the middle of the 2018 season that she would not be back for a third season, and thought that Havens would be the right coach for the job. After talking with former Eastbrook AD Brad Yordy, she was approved.
Right from the time she was hired, Havens has immersed herself with the group, fostering relationships and building rapport with her players before the season begins.
“I like structure, obviously, but I like to have fun, too,” Havens said. “I like to have a good relationship with the girls, and I want them to enjoy their time.”
Throughout the offseason, Havens and the Panthers have gone back to the drawing board focusing on fundamentals and team building exercises.
And even though the Panthers will be a young group – with only three returners from a year ago – Havens is pleased with the progress they have made throughout the summer.
“We’ve had probably about 16 girls coming to open gyms, and they are also doing the weight program,” Havens said. “They are honestly doing pretty well. I’ve been impressed with who has shown up and how everybody has worked so hard.
“They are such a coachable group. They’re putting the work in. They listen, and they are doing the best that they can to progress to get ready for the season.”
Lexi Binkerd, Ava Walter, and Brianna Stepp are the only three returning varsity players from a season ago, but they will have plenty of reinforcements in 2019. Seniors Elizabeth Stallsmith and Alli Hyatt, both first year volleyball players, together with Allannah Brenner, who played JV last year, will look to provide leadership and guidance, while Eastbrook’s treasure trove of young talent, including Chloe Poe, Blessing Geisler, Allyson Hiles, and Kayleigh Gross will look to carve out roles for themselves on the varsity roster.
“We’ve got a bunch of young girls,” Havens said. “We have a lot of freshmen [and sophomores] coming in. We are really young. But even the upperclassmen have stuck in there. They are leading them along the way…and they’re into it. They’re ready to go.”
Heading into her first year at the helm, Havens has two main objectives.
First, she wants her players to love the game, all while continuously growing and developing throughout the season, and secondly, she wants to drive the Eastbrook volleyball program forward, keeping it on the pathway towards success.
“I want them to enjoy volleyball,” Havens concluded. “I want them to look at it as something that they are looking forward too. Even if we don’t win every single game, I want them to continue to play. I want the program to be stable.
“I definitely have a lot to learn, that’s for sure, [but] I just want to set a good example. I want them to feel like I am there because I care for them. I want to be there, and I want them to look at me and think, ‘You know what? She actually does want to coach, and she wants to help us out.’ That is my goal.”