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Sports >  High school sports

Volleyball preview: First-year coach Karrie Delp installing family atmosphere at North Central

By Johnathan Curley For The Spokesman-Review

With first-year head coach Karrie Delp at the helm for North Central volleyball, there’s a new element of family for the Wolfpack.

After three years as varsity assistant, Delp now heads a program freshly initiated into Greater Spokane League 4A/3A competition with a new nickname – the Wolfpack – and a starting lineup that includes her daughter and a set of twin sisters, all of whom received 2A honor distinctions the previous season.

“Because I’ve coached through Salk (Middle School), I’ve really been coaching these kids, most of them, for six years,” Delp said. “So I didn’t have that kind of nervous ‘get to know the program’ kind of thing. The culture was already established and I think they were all familiar and comfortable with me and my coaching style.”

Part of that familiarity has given Delp even more to look forward to in the team’s inaugural season as the Wolfpack.

“Just knowing these kids that we had this year and what I think we’re going to be able to accomplish, that was very exciting,” she said.

Of the 68 players in the North Central volleyball program, there are seven sets of siblings and two sets of twins – which makes the “family feel” of the program feel more like an actual family.

“I think it’s just a unique thing when you have that many siblings or family members, particularly girls,” Delp said. “It’s pretty unusual, but it works.”

Still, being forced to balance between the position of coach and mom simultaneously – starting middle blocker Kelsie Delp is the coach’s daughter – was a demanding, but fulfilling, transition to make.

“When your parent coaches you, you have to be able to differentiate between, ‘OK, when we’re here, I’m mom, but I’m not mom, I’m coach.’ And so there has to be a respect level between both of us that we understand,” Delp said.

“And I would be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the best things ever to be able to share that with your child. … I think we’ve found the ways to really navigate in a way that is healthy for both of us and doesn’t distract from the players at North Central.”

Among those players are senior twins Bridget and Megan Todd, whom Delp describes as “just incredibly skilled athletes.”

“They have amazing attitudes, they’re as different as night and day, and both definitely have their own things that they bring to the table. … I’ve known them since they were in kindergarten, and so the relationship that we have, I feel like I have a special ability to speak to them because we have that long-standing relationship.”

The same goes for junior Stephanie Leach, who led the Wolfpack with eight kills in Tuesday night’s sweep of West Valley in nonleague play.

“I’ve known Karrie for very long, so I would say we kind of have this relationship that I knew her when I was younger, so that adds a lot,” Leach said. “She treats all of us with respect and she just wants the best for us … kind of just like a mom.”

More than just the motherly attitude that exists on the coaching side is a sense of togetherness that feels like family by choice on the players’ side.

“We all get along so well. I think like Karrie says, we’re sisters,” Leach said. “We have to treat each other like family. We know we can get through hard things and we always have each other’s backs because we have that family feel.”

Together, the team is forced to do more than just compete and progress, but also define a new era for North Central athletics as the Wolfpack.

“It’s just another challenge that we as a program are trying to overcome,” Delp said. “When your identity has been changed, it’s a little bit harder to just pick up and say, ‘OK, now this is who we are.’ It provides an interesting dynamic where everyone has to think through things that they’ve never had to think about before.”

For the junior Delp, that responsibility has taken on a serious significance for the players, too.

“I think it holds a lot of weight having to do that because I’m not just doing it for me or my team, we’re doing it for our whole ’Pack,” she said. “We just want to make them proud.”

As the team transitions into 4A/3A play and the according excitement and uncertainty sets in, there is a tangible faith in the team not only as players, but people, too, from coach Delp’s perspective.

“I am feeling pretty confident that we’re going to have a remarkable season, and part of that may not show up in wins and losses, but just in the personal (relationship) I have with these kids,” Delp said. “I think this year is going to be a real ride for us and these kids are up for the challenge.”

It’s still the unique personalities and the opportunity to escape the stresses of a tumultuous past two years that maybe mean the most to Delp.

“I feel incredibly blessed to have this group of athletes surrounding me,” she said. “More than that, it is a responsibility that I fully and completely take ownership of, like I am fully aware that kids, particularly in this current climate, are facing a lot of hardships and challenges, and my No. 1 goal is to give them a safe place to be, a place where they can come and for a couple hours every day, check out of some things that might be a real sacrifice and a real challenge and just give them a fun, safe, competitive outlet to get all of that kind of out.”

4A/3A (2021 spring league record)

Ferris (3-8): Coach Staci Hazelbaker returns for her second season with four starters and two letter winners back. Junior L Kira Felchin and sophomore OH Kennedy Smith are key returners and senior hitter Gretta Lawson is a transfer from California. “Lawson has a wicked jump serve, huge block and will add a lot of power to our offense,” Hazelbaker said. Two

basketball players, Kendall Omlin and Kacey Spink, are playing for the first time in high school.

Gonzaga Prep (8-1): Ninth-year coach Jill Benson has five letter winners and four starters back, but will miss MB Jacyn Bamis, who is off to Clemson. All-league picks senior hitter Bailey Benson and sophomore OH/S Lilli Etter return, as does three-year setter Kate Palalek. “Once the team gets comfortable together, great things are possible for the Bullpups,” Benson said.

Lewis and Clark (2-6): The Tigers lost a pair of leaders to graduation, but have six letter winners and five with starting experience back for second-year coach Larissa Welch. “We’re looking to build cohesion and rekindle spark from the end of last year,” Welch said. Sophomore hitters Ellie DeAndre and Abbey Graves are key returners.

Mead (5-2): The Panthers return 10 letter winners and four starters, including all-league seniors S Madi Zorn and OH Mia Tunison. “We expect to be one of the stronger teams in the area,” seventh-year coach Shawn Wilson said. “We have good size and power compared to most teams.”

Mt. Spokane (7-0): The pandemic kept the Wildcats from competing for a third consecutive state title. Though state player of the year Tia Allen and fellow all-state player Taylor Miche have graduated, second-year coach Laurie Quigley has 10 letter winners back, including all-state OH Teila Allen, L Kyla Randall and OH Maggie Degenhart. “Our challenge is to blend our newcomers with our returners and try to continue playing a high level of volleyball,” Quigley said.

North Central (6-4, 2A): Eight letter winners and all six starters return. MB Kelsie Delp and OH Stephanie Leach were first-team picks in the spring.

Ridgeline: Coach Whitney Abell moved from NC to Ridgeline to start the Falcons’ program. She’ll rely on a quintet of juniors, especially second-team all-league MB Corinne Westby. “Starting a new program from the ground up can feel overwhelming … but this team has already started eager to get after it and compete,” Abell said.

University (1-6): Five starters and eight letter winners are back for fifth-year coach Tony Collins, including all-league honorable mentions senior MB Kylee Johnson and sophomore OH Allie Ferrin. “These young athletes are working on playing together as one team,” Collins said, “The time they have put on the court should help them compete in this year’s league.”

2A

East Valley (2-8): Eight letter winners and four starters return for seventh-year coach Chad Coupland. Senior hitters Sydney Joy and Isabella Downing were all-league picks while senior setter Kimberly Gonzales transfers in from California.

Pullman (10-0): The Greyhounds had a special group last season but have just two starters back. They’ll lean on junior first-team all-league OH Margot Keane. “We are very young but have great leadership from senior setter Keleigh Myers,” third-year coach Megan McNannay said.

Rogers (0-8): First-year coach Amy Gipe has all six starters back from last year’s group, including seniors S Gabby Harkness, OH Lainy Gibson and L Nour Fakhreddin. “These are dedicated young women who are ready to work hard to improve on last season’s record,” Gipe said.

Shadle Park (8-2): Brooke Meyer returns for her 21st season with the Highlanders with eight letter winners and seven players with starting experience. Senior first-team all-league OH Chloe Flerchinger is an exceptional athlete. Fellow senior setter Teagan Webster was a second-team pick. “We are tough on defense and that will win some games for us,” Meyer said.

West Valley (4-3): Second-team all-league setter Marissa Andrews and junior OH Carlie Knapp are key returners for third-year coach Mark Weis with just three letter winners back this season. Ninth-grader Kendall Focht has already made an impact on the outside.

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