Bucking A Losing Trend Pirates Volleyball Team Off To Its Best Start In Ages With New Coach

“Hello, I’m calling from San Bernardino, California. I’m wondering if anyone there can tell me about girls athletics at Rogers High.”

Paraphrased, that was the introduction between Drew Vanderpool and this fine family newspaper a scant 18 months or so ago.

The conversation that followed will remain private unless the courts rule otherwise.

For the sake of discussion, however, let’s assume that Vanderpool was told there have been, ah, easier places to coach than John R. Rogers.

If that suggestion transpired - and nobody’s saying it did, mind you - Vanderpool listened more to his inner voice than to the mutterings of a hardened journalist.

Because of Vanderpool’s hunch, the next person who calls here about Rogers girls athletics could hear terms such as “on the way up” and “considerably improved.”

For when Vanderpool loaded up his belonging to move north, he brought along his coaching talents and those of his partner in matrimony, Anna.

Now many of the same athletes who played for 1995-96 Greater Spokane League girls basketball coach of the year Drew Vanderpool are responsible for Rogers’ ascension in GSL volleyball with coach Anna Vanderpool.

Through Wednesday, Rogers (6-0) ran neckand-neck with Ferris for the GSL lead. That’s more wins than the Pirates had by combining 1986-1993.

“I don’t want to look back,” said the Anna Vanderpool, “but it’s the question that keeps coming up.”

The Pirates’ starting six - senior setter Jaime Christensen, senior outside hitter/middle blocker Karly Nill, junior middle blockers Monica Abrahamson and Angel Fairbanks, junior OH Jennifer Christensen, and either senior OHs Kate Hanson or Lemandy Tannehill - isn’t terribly different from last year.

What is different is a sense that the Pirates don’t have to accept losing anymore.

When a match heads to a fifth game - as three of the Pirates’ contests have - the confidence has shifted to Rogers’ side.

“In those matches when we were down 0-2 (Lewis and Clark, Central Valley), I kept thinking we were going to lose,” Fairbanks said. “But then I’d think, ‘We have to dig down deeper; we’re going to come back.”’

Of the factors that have led to Rogers’ revival, the most mentioned are success in basketball, Anna Vanderpool’s arrival, involvement in club volleyball, team chemistry … and a dash of luck.

Coach and players will readily admit that they met LC, Mead and CV at the right time when each lacked a star player because of injury or recruiting commitments.

“We’re kind of taking advantage of situations,” Vanderpool said.

Still, Rogers girls started finding ways to win after last volleyball season. Drew Vanderpool guided Rogers to its best basketball season in seven years. The players also gathered during the summer to win a basketball tourney in Rosalia.

Back with volleyball, the girls discovered Anna Vanderpool’s practice style to their liking. Nothing against former coach Sharon Hankins, but Vanderpool, an ex-player with NCAA Final-Four Pacific, offers more of a physical challenge.

“It’s good to see (Hankins) still involved (as scorekeeper),” Jaime Christensen said. “She’s one of the greatest people to talk to when I need to talk to someone.”

Fairbanks and Abrahamson, next year’s foundations, epitomize the new spirit of playing club ball to prepare for the high school season.

“It costs about $200 to play, but it was worth it,” Fairbanks said. “You get a lot of playing time, and it’s just like having another season.”

As for chemistry, many on the roster compete together in three sports (softball in the spring). Although occasional disagreements pop up, Fairbanks said all is forgotten when the first serve arrives.

The Vanderpools never hesitated on coming to Rogers because Pacific, their high school in San Bernardino, makes anything in Spokane look like a kindergarten dance. Sporting events often required five security guards. Despite their successes - two league titles apiece - the Vanderpools couldn’t see raising their two kids in that environment.

Anna prepared to seek coaching work on the Spokane outskirts after Rogers hired Drew. Then Hankins resigned her six-year position and Anna, who had volunteered last year, found her position.

“It was pretty amazing,” she said. “It was meant to be.”

The same, it appears, can be said about the ‘96 Pirates.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ROGERS RECORDS 1996: 6-0 1995: 2-14 1994: 3-13 1993: 2-14 1992: 1-15 1991: 0-16 1990: 0-16 1989: 0-16 1988: 1-15 1987: 0-16 1986: 1-15 1985: 3-13 Rogers 68-47 from 1976-84, including two league titles

This sidebar appeared with the story: ROGERS RECORDS 1996: 6-0 1995: 2-14 1994: 3-13 1993: 2-14 1992: 1-15 1991: 0-16 1990: 0-16 1989: 0-16 1988: 1-15 1987: 0-16 1986: 1-15 1985: 3-13 Rogers 68-47 from 1976-84, including two league titles

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