Mark Weis admits it. He’s hurting.
Weis stepped down this summer as girls volleyball coach at University high school after accepting an administrative position with the Central Valley School District.
“You can’t be an administrator and a coach, so I had to resign,” he said. “It hurts. I’ve been a volleyball coach for 16, 17 years now. I’m going to miss it, but I’m going to keep myself involved somehow. I may coach a club team or something like that. I haven’t decided.
“I just know I’m going to miss the girls. There’s a great nucleus of girls coming back this year, and this will be a good team.”
The Greater Spokane League is arguably the toughest volleyball conference in the state. Mead, last year’s state Class 4A runner up, has won seven state championships since 1999, including five consecutive titles from 2003 through 2007. Lewis and Clark was state champion in 2008 after back-to-back title game losses to Mead the two previous tournaments. Shadle Park won the state Class 3A title in 2008 and Mt. Spokane was a finalist in 2009.
The standards are set high, Weis agreed.
“It’s going to be awfully tough for someone to come into this league if they don’t have an appreciation for just how good the league is and how much work you have to put in to be able to compete,” he said.
Still, Weis said, the league will look different next year.
The Central Valley School District will announce replacement hires for both Weis and Chris Kosty, who stepped down as CV’s volleyball coach after two seasons.
Mead announced in late March that Elaina Renius will take over the Panther program that Judy Kight turned into a dynasty – winning almost 600 games throughout her 23 seasons as coach, winning 17 state tournament trophies to go with her seven championships.
And Gonzaga Prep tapped Jill Benson to coach the Bullpups. Benson is the wife of Eastern Washington University head coach Wade Benson. She coached volleyball at Niceville High School in Florida the past two seasons, leading her team to a fifth-place finish in the state Class 6A tournament both years.
Hired for the 2007 season to replace Amanda Velazquez, Weis understands what it takes to be successful: playing a lot of volleyball, in particular a lot of club volleyball.
“If you look at the starting lineup of the teams in the GSL, you’re not going to see very many players who don’t,” he said. “There are some players who can get away with not doing it, but they generally play another sport.”
Club volleyball is where a player can gain valuable experience before ever playing a varsity match.
“If, for example, you have a kid hitting on the right side and need to move her to left side, it helps if they have club experience playing over there,” Weis said. “If your setter has some experience playing as a defensive specialist, so much the better.”
Or if your defensive specialist has experience setting?
Weis laughed. That doesn’t happen.
“Defensive specialists always want to play in the front row,” he said. “You may have great hops, kid, but you’re still just 5-foot-1.”
More important for the player, club volleyball tournaments are much more likely to get scouted.
“The thing about high school volleyball is that college coaches aren’t going to scout your league games,” Weis said. “Now, a tournament like our annual Crossover Classic, that’s going to bring out college coaches. That’s like one-stop shopping for them.
“Aside from that, they concentrate on our post season.”
Even more impressive is the turnout by college recruiters at the big national club tournaments. The Southern California Volleyball Association’s Las Vegas Classic tournament in March had a list of the college programs scouting the event that ran seven pages.
“Every year we have a couple girls who go play in tournaments in California and Florida,” Weis said. “They get a lot of great experience playing in them.
“The club season usually winds down at the end of April. Once school’s over, we have kids in the gym a couple two or three days a week. We have our clinic starting next week. The new coach will get the chance to meet and start working with his team then.”