New volleyball head coach leads team to historic finish

Ketti Horton, Staff Writer

Following the resignation of previous head coach Nicole Murphy, Trevor Koelling was announced the new RBHS volleyball head coach May 24, 2021. The Bruins ended their season with a record of 35-6. Earlier this summer, Koelling and the varsity team decided their biggest goal this year was to bring home a state championship title. They ended up placing fourth at this year’s state championship. While it wasn’t the desired outcome, it was still a historic state appearance. Before this year, no RBHS volleyball team had ever made it to a state final. 

Koelling said he was “both excited and overwhelmed” when he first heard he got the job. However, Koelling said he was ready and excited to start his time with the Bruins. 

“[I] started working immediately to start getting the ball rolling on changes I wanted to make,” Koelling said. “And [I] tried to find staff that shared the same vision.” 

Before joining the RBHS faculty, Koelling was a student assistant at Missouri State University (MSU) for one season. Shortly after his time at MSU, he was also a volunteer assistant turned Director of Operations at the University of MissouriColumbia for three seasons. Most recently, he is a club volleyball coach, now director, at Missouri Juniors, a local volleyball club based in Columbia and Jefferson City. Koelling said he was asked by many of his previous players and players’ parents to apply to RBHS after hearing the position was open. 

“I wanted to apply because of the competitive athletic culture at [RBHS],” Koelling said. “The talent and potential that this program showed to establish itself as a powerhouse volleyball program was just astounding.” 

Koelling said being hired so close to the start of volleyball season, and having just 24 hours to plan an entire summer schedule had some immense challenges. Koelling, who had never previously coached a high school program, said he was scrambling to put together multiple schedules for practices and games. A Missouri State High School Athletics Association (MSHAA) summer schedule allowed for 20 days of contact between coaches and players. These 20 days can include but are not limited to practices, lifts, tournaments and scrimmages with other teams. For the volleyball program, Koelling scheduled a morning practice with an afternoon lifting session. No summer tournaments were able to be scheduled because of the late hire.

Koelling said any coaching change is going to leave people apprehensive. He was aware of this and prepared to combat any team-related issues when he first found out that he got the job. 

“Anytime you make changes [there are] people who just don’t like it,” Koelling said. “Change puts people out of their comfort zones, but it’s just [a] part of life. As a coach it is my job to also teach these girls life skills, not just volleyball. Change is inevitable, and I thought this was a great opportunity to teach the girls to work through it.”

Anytime you make changes [there are] people who just don’t like it. Change puts people out of their comfort zones, but it’s just [a] part of life. As a coach it is my job to also teach these girls life skills, not just volleyball. Change is inevitable, and I thought this was a great opportunity to teach the girls to work through it.

— Trevor Koelling, head volleyball coach

Even with all of these challenges, senior player Maddie Llewellyn said “Koelling left people in awe of his ability to work through adversity.” Llewellyn said she was nervous about the new hire at first. Even through the apprehension, she said she was excited for her senior year and to “go on one last ride with [her] teammates.” “I was nervous originally because this was our third coach in four years. I felt like we were losing out on a somewhat normal senior year, however after the first practice I was immediately relieved,” Llewellyn said. “Trevor has such a contagious energy about him and he makes us want to come to practice every day.”

Llewellyn said the team quickly warmed up to Koelling and were ecstatic about the beginning of their season. With a varsity team of nine seniors, Llewellyn said cohesion and togetherness were going to be vital, but those aspects came naturally to the senior class. 

As the team moved past the beginning of the season, the team’s stats increased. Koelling said players gained trust in each other like never before, which ultimately allowed for a quick and dynamic offense. Junior outside hitter (OH) Lily Dudley hit a .324% on the season, meaning almost a third of the balls she hit resulted in a kill. This is comparable to Kendall Kipp, a six-foot-five OH at Stanford University, who is hitting .326% currently. Dudley was a key offensive leader for the Bruins and credited most of her success to Koelling. 

“He has actually been my saving grace. Last club season I struggled with being timid on the court, which was much different than the player I was the previous high school season. I was scared to mess up, scared to step outside of my comfort zone and really just scared to be anything less than perfect,” Dudley said. “My high school season last year impacted my ability to be the player I knew I was. By the end of [club] season, I was getting better as a player, but still struggling with the mentality of the game. However the second I got back in the gym with Trevor, everything changed.” 

Dudley said a lot of the returning varsity players struggled with this same pressure to not make mistakes. Dudley specifically attributes her change in confidence to Koelling and his coaching methods. 

 “I learned that mistakes are okay, trying something new is okay and that I don’t have to be perfect all the time. I can see that I have come back to the player I always wanted to be. I really fell in love with the sport again, and I now have the confidence I once longed for. He has helped me so much on this path of healing,” Dudley said. “I cannot thank him enough for being one of the few coaches in my career who I fully believe has my best interest in mind. I’ve had a lot of coaches in my life, and Trevor has been one of the most impactful.”

They ended up coming home with a fourth place trophy at this years MSHAA state championship, which is the highest finish of any RBHS volleyball team. While it wasn’t their original goal, the 2021 team still made history under Koelling and his coaching staff.

“I feel like the season was a success from start to finish. I think this team bought in and changed the culture of this program,” Koelling said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the work these girls put in and am excited about the bright future we have.”

Did you go to a volleyball game this year? Let us know in the comments below.