By Walter Villa
Mile Mondays weren’t very popular … until they led to Winning Weekdays and Winning Weekends.
When Julie Green took over last March as coach of Coppell (Texas), one of the rules she implemented was that her players had to run a mile as fast as they could. The next week’s mile had to be even faster -- or they would have to do extra running. This was in addition to weight-room work.
“We cried some, and we threw up some,” said Green the 2011 ESPNHS Volleyball Coach of the Year. “But we began to see the effects when we battled and outlasted teams and played matches to five sets and were still in good shape at the end.”
Case in point was the regional quarterfinals against defending state champion Hebron (Carrollton, Texas), which had eliminated Coppell in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. This year’s match went five sets, with the well-conditioned Coppell athletes prevailing.
It happened again in the state semifinals, when Johnson (San Antonio) won two out of the first three sets before Coppell rallied.
And when Coppell defeated Boyd (McKinney, Texas) in a four-set final, the Cowgirls had their first-ever state title.
“I’m not sure if we could have won without (Green),” said 6-foot-4 senior middle blocker Kierra Holst, the MVP of the Class 5A state finals and an Oklahoma recruit. “We needed a coach like her.
“At the beginning of the season, we were a bunch of good individuals. She worked on us becoming a great team.”
Green, who led Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) to its first-ever state title in 2010, said she was a bit surprised the Coppell team came together as quickly as it did.
“It was obvious that the kids were talented, but they had to buy in,” Green said. “I knew there was potential, but I would not have predicted the finish we had.”
Perhaps the Coppell players emulated their new coach’s hunger to win. Green said she is so competitive that it even affects her driving -- she doesn’t like cars passing her on the street.
Cassidy Pickrell, a 6-0 junior outside hitter, has been in a car with Green and can vouch for her coach hating to lose at anything.
“Our team motto this year was the word ‘compete’ in Greek,” Pickrell said. “(Green) is a very positive coach, but she doesn’t let us get away with anything. She is intense, and we have the utmost respect for her.”
Pickrell and her talented little sister, 5-10 setter Kylie Pickrell, figure to be two of Coppell’s leaders next season. Cassidy recently committed to UC Irvine, and Kylie is just the second freshman ever to play varsity for Green.
Two other players to watch are 6-0 junior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu, who has committed to Cal; and 5-11 junior middle blocker/right-side hitter Erica Bohannon, who has offers from Tennessee and Wake Forest.
Green said she is not interested in coaching college teams or moving elsewhere for another challenge.
“I’m more than happy to stay here and try to win another state title next year,” Green said. “I love high school kids. They are young and passionate about what they do, and that’s great.”