Ward has big shoes to fill

Published 7:16 pm Friday, August 9, 2013

James Ward (above) is heading to his first year as the Riverside Knights varsity volleyball coach.

James Ward (left) is heading to his first year as the Riverside Knights varsity volleyball coach.

WILLIAMSTON — The Riverside volleyball team lost five of its six starters from its 2012 Four Rivers Conference championship team that went 24-2 and advanced all the way to the fourth round of the playoffs, but perhaps its biggest offseason loss was that of coach Herbie Rogers.
For years Rogers has been the face of area volleyball has his teams have routinely won conference championships, which has earned him several WDN Coach of the Year awards.
However, Rogers decided to step down from coaching the varsity level after the 2012 season, which has opened the door for former Riverside middle school coach James Ward.
Ward, who has learned the game under Rogers’ tutelage, is well aware of his predecessor’s success and said he will do his best to replicate it.
“It’s some big, big shoes to fill,” Ward said. “He’s set this (program) in motion years ago and he’s passed it down. I’ve coached in rec, I’ve coached at middle school and he’s always come out and to tell us what (the varsity) does and show us drills.
“Everything I know comes from him. Dean Smith had his coaching tree so I guess I’m the first of Herbie’s.”
Ward said a majority of his coaching philosophies are in sync with Rogers.
“We don’t differ hardly any,” Ward said. “Usually what he says is right. We’re on the same page on a lot of things.”
Replacing a coach like Rogers can be tough on both Ward and his players but the Knights first-year coach said so far the transition has been a smooth one.
“It’s been good,” Ward said. “We all know each other. They knew me as a parent, but we’ve all known each other for a while.”
The good news for Ward is that he brings back Kasey Hall, a 2012 WDN All-Area first team setter, as well as several players who have varsity volleyball experience.
“We have one starter returning in setter Kasey Hall and all the other rising seniors did see some time because they were fortunate to get into some games last year,” Ward said. “D’Asya Wilson is a three-sport player for us and is a real strong hitter for us. Lawson Perry is a libero, my daughter Chesson will play the opposite position and in the middle we have three different people that we’re looking at. We have a good group back and they know what to do and what’s expected of them.”
The Knights will kick off their season on Aug. 19 at home against Northside and Ward said the goal from now until that point is to refine their skills.
“We just need to sharpen everything,” Ward said. “Serve-receive is going to be big for us. But, we just need to sharpen everything from passing to hitting and continue to improve everyday.”