Volleyball court
Philomath High hopes to see a season materialize this spring. (Getty Images)

If you consider the past, it would make sense if Kaela Lindsey and Charlotte Feige didn’t like each other.

Consider this: Lindsey’s Philomath volleyball team in 2017 had mowed through the Oregon West unbeaten to win the conference title and entered the state playoffs ranked No. 4 in Class 4A. 

Meanwhile, Scappoose with Feige in the lineup had gone 8-10 in the regular season and reached state after getting past La Grande in a play-in match.

The two schools matched up in the first round of state and Scappoose escaped with a significant upset over the Warriors in five sets. It’s one of those moments not easily forgotten and it would be understandable if a grudge remained intact.

But Lindsey and Feige are now on the same team as assistant coaches under Denee Newton. Both college students, they’re working toward the same goal of improving Philomath High’s volleyball program.

“There was some tightened irony in hearing their backgrounds, but the result has been an immediate respect for them as former great competitors turned coaches,” Newton said.

Lindsey, Feige and former Sandy High standout London Starley were all hired on as assistants. During Starley’s senior season in 2018, Sandy went 24-6 and reached the championship match of the 6A playoffs, falling in four sets to Central Catholic. 

But there’s also a Lindsey-Starley connection. In July 2018, Philomath and Sandy were among the teams participating in a team camp at Crook County and on the final day in a tournament that had been organized, they met in the semifinals. Sandy slipped by in a close match.

Those past matchups aside, Newton believes her new assistants, all college students, will be assets to the program in various ways.

“I think there’s some energy there for sure,” Newton said. “Granted, they haven’t been able to be in the gym a whole lot but they bring some excitement. They still have this player’s mindset and I think that’s helpful for me.”

In particular, Newton said her younger counterparts are still in playing shape.

“I’m kind of old and broken now,” she laughed, “but I’ll be able to use their muscle literally when it comes to picking up pace with a drill and maybe adding a dynamic. We can put them in a drill and if I want them to model certain behaviors … that’s going to be something we will be able to utilize.”

Juleia Dooley is back with PHS volleyball as an established assistant and she’s moving up to coach the junior varsity. Starley will take over as the JVII coach.

“London has done some work with the 14s age group and she’s really comfortable with the verbal aspects of coaching and the feedback,” Newton said. “I’m very verbal and kind of instant in how I train and I’ve noticed she’s similar in that way.”

The volleyball team participated in Season 1 workouts during the fall and anticipates taking the floor again next month with the updated OSAA schedule that extends training sessions.

“They’re very willing to volunteer their time despite we’re not paying coaches right now,” Newton said. “They showed up this summer and they showed up in our Season 1 when we had practices.”

Newton’s going to need all four of her assistants based on what she’s seeing for program numbers. In between last summer and the Season 1 session, Newton had between 31 and 40 students, including 20 freshmen, on her list.

“The biggest thing for me was I had to figure out my safety protocols if I’m going to bring this many kids into the gym,” she said. “What was kind of a blessing was that we didn’t always have them all there at the same time, so it worked out.”

As a precaution, Newton had reserved the weight room for a group to utilize during volleyball practices, if needed.

“It was if we got overflow, we were going to have a cohort go to the weight room and do rotations that way, so that we have a safe number of kids in the gym at the same time,” Newton said.

Overall, the coach sees volleyball as one of the easier sports to handle during the pandemic even though they’re inside.

“It’s a little bit easier for us than other sports because we can put every girl in her designated space and do the no-contact pretty strictly,” she said.

If high school sports become a reality, volleyball’s official practices would begin Feb. 22 with a shortened season to run from March 1 to April 4. The culminating week — OSAA’s terminology for some sort of postseason or final matches — would follow April 5-11.