Building a winnerPublished 5:50pm Monday, December 31, 2012
Kelly Slade loves a good challenge but maybe she could have started with something a little simpler like, let’s say, a fair solution to keeping us from diving off the fiscal cliff or engineering a cell phone battery that last longer than a year.
Nope. Instead, two years ago Slade decided to coach a Washington volleyball team whose winning percentage in recent history looked more like that of the Washington Generals.
“I love a challenge,” Slade said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to come in and to start from scratch, set my own culture and rules and consequences and just really build a program. I think it’s probably easier to build a program from nothing than having to come in and having to work with something that was already here.”
Upon accepting the job offer Slade donned a hard hat and hammer and went right to work on constructing the new-look Pam Pack volleyball team and produced a five-win season in her first year. Certainly nothing to brag about for most teams, but considering Washington hadn’t won that many games in the last five years combined it was a good start.
This season Washington built on that foundation in Trump-like fashion as it went 12-9 overall and cranked out a 10-4 Coastal Conference record to cement its first trip to the playoffs since 1997.
The Pam Pack clinched third place and punched its ticket to the playoffs in style with a Senior Night sweep of West Carteret that lead to win-starved players like senior Lacie Anglim to brush tears from her eyes.
“It’s awesome for me because we went from not being able to win a game at all my freshman year to being able to be in third place and going to the playoffs,” Anglim said that night after the game. “It means so much and it’s so much fun.”
Fun, winning and Washington volleyball are three words that have not been associated with each other in a long time and it’s with that in mind that Slade was tabbed the Washington Daily News Volleyball Coach of the Year.
“When she first came here she was kind of thrown into the fire and had to coach JV and varsity for the last two years and as much work as that’s been she’s been able to mold that program,” Washington athletic director Allison Jones said. “In the past two years she’s been able to shape it how she wants to. We’re proud that she’s been chosen coach of the year and we certainly think she deserves it. She’s had a great season.”
Slade is the first to admit that turning around the Titanic takes more than just one person and praised the effort of those around her that helped make Washington’s resurrection possible.
“I just had a big group of supports from the parents to the players themselves and the athletic director,” Slade said. “My sister (Kristen) was my right hand. She helped me a lot. Sammy Corey (middle hitter Megan Corey’s father) helped me run a lot of practices and my father (Danny) came and helped out during tryouts. He actually made some things that helped us out at practice like a hitting apparatus.
“There was just a really strong support system here in the community and it’s really helped out.”