Big Bend Volleyball looking to earn respect in the NWAC

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Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald - Vikings sophomore Laurissa Kisler digs a ball during a recent practice.

MOSES LAKE — They are laying the groundwork to something good, changing the culture, and seeing if they can’t earn a little respect in the Northwest Athletic Conference East Region this season.

Every journey starts with the first step and Big Bend Community College coach Mike DeHoog is neither new to volleyball nor to Big Bend Community College.

He was the Vikings’ head volleyball coach from 2001 to 2011 before taking the job at Moses Lake High School (2013-16). He had a four-year run at the high school level and now he’s back to see if he can’t turn around a program that won just one match last year.

“I had an amazing experience at the high school, but you’re limited in what you can do. We want multi-sport athletes at the high school. But here, they play year-round,” said DeHoog, who retained his full-time position at Big Bend the entire time. “We’re lifting year-round. We’re training year-round. We’re working hard to lay the groundwork.”

DeHoog was hired in May, so he had to hit the ground running with the current roster of 10 players. He’s in the process of establishing his own recruiting base, but for now he’s gonna dance with the one that brought him, preparing for the NWAC season that starts with consecutive home matches next week.

“I have four sophomores on this team and they really want to turn this around and make it a positive experience. They really want to be a part of changing the (volleyball) culture here,” DeHoog said. “They’re hungry for structure and they want to work hard and want to be pushed.”

On the front row, the Vikings return Maddy Powers, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter from Boulder, Mont., and 5-10 middle hitter Natalie Yergensen from Twin Falls, Idaho. They also return 5-3 libero Laurissa Kisler from Warden and setter Savannah Bass from The Dalles, Ore., from a team that went 1-30 a year ago.

“After coming through the season from hell, I’d like to be an inspiration for the fire and grit it takes to turn this around,” Powers said. “We’re coming from the bottom, I hope to take the anger I have from all the losing last year and turn it into something good. I’ve heard a lot of good things about coach DeHoog and we’re ready to work hard to turn this around.”

They stand at the turning point. It’s a new season, a new coach and a chance to change the culture of a program that spiraled downward the past few seasons. It’s an opportunity to lay the groundwork to a new beginning at Big Bend Kisler said.

“It’s going to be hard in the beginning, but anything can happen if we work for it,” the former Warden Cougar said. “This team has a lot of character. We have to find that fire, but somebody has to step up.

“I think the playoffs are the goal and how we get there is attitude and believing in ourselves.”

They have to earn their respect and DeHoog says it starts in the gym and learning to play as a team. They went 0-6 at the Friendlies Tournament in Springfield, Ore., last week, but by time they were done, they were much better for their efforts.

“I told the kids they are laying the foundation — what’s expected in the classroom, what’s expected from a behavior standpoint and a work ethic. They are in on the ground floor and they’ve been excited about putting in the work,” he said. “What we’re doing here is not always about volleyball. None of these kids are going to go to play professionally, but we’re using volleyball to teach life lessons and the classroom is the volleyball court. This first year, the public is going to judge us on wins and loses, but I’m measuring our success by our putting ourselves in a position to win, then that’s a success we can live with.” The Vikings open the season with a two consecutive home matches, beginning today with Grays Harbor and Thursday against Linn-Benton.

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