The volleyball courts will have a couple of new faces this upcoming season in Antelope County.
Jessica Eymann and Rachael Cheatum have taken over head coaching duties for Neligh-Oakdale and Summerland, respectively, for the 2020 season.
Eymann, who has helped coach the Lady Warriors as an assistant in previous years, has decided to take the head job. Although the season is still about two months away, Eymann is ready for the girls start becoming a team again.
“I am looking forward to seeing improvement and a new team come together,” Eymann said. “I think practices will be competitive and this will naturally make us all better.”
This next season will be huge for all teams considering the circumstances of this past spring and current situations going on right now. Kids need something to do, and Eymann hopes that volleyball can fill that void.
“Honestly with everything going on in the world for these kids I really just want this to be a positive experience,” Eymann said. “I want my players to love this sport as much as I do and focus on improving themselves as athletes and teammates. We have a large group of talented freshmen and I want to create an environment where they can help us get better.”
Experience is huge for teams, but sometimes a strong group of underclassmen can help too.
“We have a large group of underclassmen that will heighten the level of play at practice to deepen the bench and improve everyone,” she said.
Eymann, who has been head coach at the junior high level over the past couple years, is ready for the change to high school.
“I was fortunate to coach under someone who has a similar style to me,” she said. “The difference will be the decision making and constant reflection. As an assistant, your job is to give feedback if asked and to support the decisions of the head coach. I have been a head coach at the junior high level and even though we are talking about two different levels, I feel my style will be similar.”
More often than not, coaches get their coaching styles from their former mentors. Eymann likes to credit not only her former coaches, but also her former teammates.
“My strategy hasn’t really come from one person honestly,” she said. “ Everyone that I’ve played with or coached with has shaped the way that I coach.”
Rachael Cheatum, who has experience as a junior high volleyball coach too, is now at the helm for the Summerland Bobcats.
Assuming junior high coaching duties can make it difficult to make it to the high school games played during the same season. Taking over the high school job became the best of both worlds for Cheatum — getting to watch her daughters play and still coach.
“I was coaching junior high, and as my daughters got into high school, I wasn’t able to be there as much,” she said. “When the Funks retired this past year, I mentioned to Mrs. (Cathy) Cooper that if they needed any assistant coaches, that I could help out. Then they asked me if I would be willing to be the head coach, and now here we are.”
Coaching your own kids can be tough, not knowing how you will react to situations on the court. However, Cheatum thinks that this will be a great experience coaching her kids though.
“I hope it goes okay,” she said with a chuckle. “I think it will be a fun experience since they are still in high school. Not a lot of parents get to say that they got to coach their own kids in high school, but I’m lucky enough to say that I did.”
The Summerland Bobcats had an incredible season last year thanks to some talent and also some great coaching from Suz Funk.
Although Funk retired from coaching, she has agreed to help out when Cheatum needs her.
“I hope to just build off of Suz’s (Funk) coaching style from last year,” Cheatum said. “I watched some of Suz’s early practices last year, and we tried to implement her strategy into the junior high players too. She made a great program, and I really hope to just keep building off of it. She even said that I can ask her anything when I have questions. Suz has been a huge help already.”
Last year’s Bobcat team was loaded with talented seniors. Now that they have left, Summerland is looking to rebuild with some returning letter winners and underclassmen who earned playing experience.
“I think that we have a really nice group of girls returning,” Cheatum said. “I want to see them continue to be successful from where they were last and year and just have fun this upcoming season.”
Although this is her first year as a head coach at the high school level, this isn’t her first time coaching high school players.
“I helped with the junior varsity and club teams last year, but as far as being a head high school coach, this is a first for me,” she said.
With a lot of changes over the past year for the towns of Clearwater, Ewing, and Orchard, Cheatum is excited to see the fans bring the same energy as last year.
“I’m excited for the beginning of something new,” she said. “I’m hoping that the fans rally behind us like last year. We lost a great group of seniors last year, but I feel like this team will be fun to watch and I hope they come out and support us.”