Champion to Coach: Volleyball 2018


Brigid Wentz

Beads of sweat streamed down senior Sydney Ashner’s hairline as she dove for the hit down the line. Newbie coach, Nicole Dalton, nodded her head in affirmation as she high-fived Ashner. A wide grin passed over Ashner’s face when she realized her idol, two-time Gatorade Player of the Year, approved. 

As soon as the girls found out Dalton would be their new coach, excitement started brewing. The seniors especially were thrilled to have their last season led by a D1 athlete. Dalton’s young age immediately stuck out because the girls would have someone to relate to. She quickly took the role of a mature ‘older sister’. 

 “I loved it when I visited, and everyone I’ve met here has been super welcoming,” Dalton said. “I just felt like it was right, I felt it was honestly God saying go do it.” 

Dalton was in the building every day as a full-time substitute teacher. Compared to previous coaches, this was a big deal for the girls. Dalton made it very clear that she would always be available to help the girls, whether it was just talking or helping them with homework.  

“I spent a lot of time and effort on the girls to make them good on the volleyball court,” Dalton said. “And also really good women overall.”  

The girls appreciated Dalton’s progressive, uplifting attitude. It was the little things; waving at them in the hallway, asking how their days were going and chatting about weekend plans that counted for the girls.  

 It didn’t take long for the players to realize what their season would look like once Dalton had filled the coaching position. Dalton had them on the path to success from the beginning. 

“She’s one of the best players in the country,” Ashner said. “I think [practices] were a lot more dynamic and challenging.” 

Running lines for letting a ball drop a foot away, getting one-on-one instruction and precise warm-ups were changes that Dalton implemented immediately. The girls all liked the harder practices. For the girls, leaving the gym with wet knee pads was unarguably gross, but always their goal. Sweating through T-shirts, having soaked headbands and sweat dripping onto their lips were results even the hardest working players didn’t expect.  

As Dalton walked into practice, Ashner’s eyes lit up. She made a point to walk around during warm-ups talking to the players about their day. Ranting about how hard their classes were, the highlight of their day and upcoming weekend plans were normal conversation topics. 

The players were determined to get further than they did last year, finishing third at 6A State. Dalton not only pushed them to new limits on the court, but also created a family out of the volleyball team.