Olympic College's new volleyball coach has much to rebuild

Beth Donnelly huddles with the Bremerton High School volleyball team during a game in 2009. She will take over at Olympic College for the 2010 season. - Wesley Remmer/file photo
Beth Donnelly huddles with the Bremerton High School volleyball team during a game in 2009. She will take over at Olympic College for the 2010 season.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/file photo

Beth Donnelly’s next rebuilding job will begin across the street from where her last one ended.

Donnelly, 28, has been hired as the head volleyball coach at Olympic College after holding the same position for one season at Bremerton High School.

She replaces Kaelea Makaiwi, who was 3-35 with the Rangers in 2009 and was 12-92 in three seasons.

“I’m hitting the ground running,” Donnelly said. “We’ve got almost a whole roster to fill.”

Donnelly also coaches the Olympic Premier Volleyball Club and is no stranger to rebuilding.

Last year she took over a Bremerton team coming off a three-win season. The 2009 season started rocky, with a 0-6 start, but then the team won four of five to finish 4-10, the team's best record since 2006.

Now the former college player – she played four seasons at Northern Michigan University – faces an even larger challenge at Olympic.

All but four players from the 2009 squad are gone, meaning Donnelly must recruit almost an entirely new roster.

“We want kids who won’t settle for losing,” she said. “The mindset here needs to change.”

Donnelly is visiting Green River Community College on Saturday and already has direct ties with the area’s top club players through her coaching position at Olympic Premier.

Although Donnelly has had success at the college level – she led South Dakota School of Mines to a 23-6 record in 2007 – she faces a new set of challenges at Olympic.

At the School of Mines, Donnelly had the luxury of working with players for four seasons. Olympic, however, is a two-year school, so the players coming in will be expected to play immediately and won’t have as much time to develop.

“I’m going to be in a little bit more of a hole here,” Donnelly said. “It’s a different type of player to recruit.”

Donnelly said she expects to get three seasons to turn the program around, though she signed a one-year contract that will be renegotiated after the 2010 season.

She called leaving Bremerton, a team that finally found some consistency under her watch, a “bittersweet” feeling.

When she announced to the players she wouldn’t be returning, their reaction was one of disappointment but also understanding.

“There were a few tears,” Donnelly said. “But I think the one thing that I did establish there, at least at the varsity level, was to give 110 percent and get better every day. Hopefully that won’t go away.”

Kia MacIntyre, a senior who played volleyball for four seasons at Bremerton, called Donnelly the best coach she had.

Although she won’t be affected by the change like the returning players, MacIntyre said it was still difficult to hear the news, which was delivered earlier this week.

“She made it so you wanted to be there,” MacIntyre said. “I liked playing for her more so than other coaches. She was a previous player, so she understood what was going on.”

The Bremerton vacancy has yet to be posted to the district’s Web site, but Donnelly said she made a few recommendations for her replacement to Athletic Director George Duarte.

Olympic’s 2010 season doesn’t begin until August, but Donnelly plans to hold open gym sessions between now and then as she begins to recruit.

She encouraged players of all types to turn out.

“I’d hate to close the doors to anybody right now,” Donnelly said. “I’m open to giving every kid the opportunity to tryout for the team.”

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