With four different head coaches in three seasons, Salem’s volleyball team is obviously searching for some positive identity both on and off the court.
Kristen Williams is hoping to bring the program just that in her first year as a high school volleyball head coach.
Williams is the latest head coach to work at turning around the fortunes of the Lady Tiger program. She was hired by the Salem school board in April. Williams will replace interim head coach Kristi Steelman.
In a unique situation last season Dale “Rocky” Sandlin was hired in May of 2019 as Salem’s volleyball head coach. However, just two matches into the 2019 season Sandlin was relieved of his volleyball coaching duties, with then-assistant Steelman taking over on the interim basis.
Sandlin replaced Amanda Walker, who resigned from a two-season Lady Tiger volleyball coaching stint after the 2018 campaign.
Salem finished 1-25-2 in 2019, had a 9-20 mark in 2018, 6-21-2 in 2017 and 5-23-1 in 2016. Tough numbers for a program that was once a state power.
Williams, 23, is hoping for a fresh and successful start this fall. She coached girls’ basketball in the last school year at Arcadia Valley. It was her first school coaching position after graduating from Missouri Baptist, where she played volleyball. Both Williams and her fiancé, Bryson Barnes, were hired by Salem to teacher/coaching positions at the same time.
She also has experience coaching USAV volleyball and AAU basketball.
“I always wanted to coach volleyball at the high school level,” Williams said. “I’m pretty blessed to be here.”
With COVID-19 precautions in place, Williams has not been able to do a whole lot with her new team in the offseason. She is conducting the team in the school’s new weight room program. However, as of last week has not let the players get in the gym for any volleyball work.
“We’ve been able to get in the weight room and do drills that incorporate volleyball skills,” she said. “We have not gotten in the gym yet. I want to make sure we’re safe. I’m hoping to get in the gym this week. We’re hoping to do some Licking Camp stuff in July.”
Williams is conducting the weight room conditioning drills herself for the Lady Tiger squad, to get to know her new players better and help form positive relationships with them.
“Definitely there has been a lot to build off of,” she said. “They work incredibly hard, and hard work is awesome to see. We’re averaging between 15 and 20 (in the offseason program).
“Their mindset is in a good place right now. We don’t want to focus on the past. And we want to make sure they’re having a good time – it is summer and you want to have fun.”