MELISSA — June means summer sports camps, and sometimes coaching changes. Don’t worry, Melissa head volleyball coach Frank DePaolo isn’t going anywhere - but he welcomed new assistant coach Raechel Van Horn to his staff during MISD volleyball camp, June 10-13, at Melissa Middle School.
Van Horn played four years of volleyball for Tom Bean High School before heading off to Oklahoma State University where she graduated in 2018. An outside hitter and defensive specialist at Tom Bean, she didn’t play in college as OSU has no team.
Van Horn will be Melissa’s JV1 coach this fall while Steve De Luna comes over from girls soccer to coach JV2. Kathy Barton will remain DePaolo’s varsity assistant.
Not only is this Van Horn’s first coaching job, it’s her first teaching job as well. She’ll teach English at Melissa High.
“Melissa was actually my very first interview,” Van Horn said during a camp break on June 13. “[Coach DePaolo] has built a great program here. I’m thrilled to be here, to learn as much as I can - from him, especially - and from all the other coaches. In Melissa, in general, all I’ve received are open arms and kindness and support from Day 1. I’ve been a little stressed out but everybody has just been there for me.”
DePaolo noted that Van Horn came highly recommended by MHS counselor Emily Chapman, who was a cheer sponsor at Tom Bean when Van Horn was cheer captain. “In the interview,” DePaolo said, “Coach Barton and I really liked the fact that she was eager to learn. She was very eager to learn how to be a coach. … That’s what’s really hard right now – finding graduates that want to be head coaches. A lot of them know what kind of work goes into it and a lot of them aren’t willing to do that anymore. But Raechel is definitely willing to put in the work.”
As for camp, DePaolo and company entertained two sessions per day: incoming 7th- and 8th-graders in the early afternoon, followed by 3rd- through 6th-graders. With the older kids on this final day of camp, DePaolo drilled a great deal on proper court positioning in different fast-paced situations. It didn’t take long to get a real appreciation for the speed of the high school game and how fast the girls have to think.
Said DePaolo, “Like in a lot of sports - but volleyball, especially - it’s just years of practice and playing experience. But, yeah, they do have so much to think about and it has to be habit. You’ve got to practice it a lot.”
Asked what he thinks about this group of seventh and eighth-graders, DePaolo said, “There’s a lot of seventh-graders this year. I think we’ve got some really, really solid seventh-graders. That’s a good group. Then the core of the A team from last year - now going to be eighth grade - they’re all here. And there’s a few of the B-teamers here, so I think we’ve got a pretty decent team.
“We don’t have a lot of height but we’re really solid at the center position for that particular grade level, so I’m happy about that. And we’re pretty good at the libero position.”
That sounds a bit like Melissa’s varsity Lady Cardinals, with a 2018 state-tournament appearance in-hand, could be “reloading” for some time.