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Junior Varsity coach Theresa Vogt, right, hands a volleyball to Varsity coach Laurie Bohnhoff, left, during a recent practice in the gym at Effingham High School.

It’s been five years since Laurie Bohnhoff was at the helm of the Effingham High School volleyball team.

But Bohnhoff is back as the head coach of the Hearts. She replaces five-year coach Mindy McCollum-Boswell; Bohnhoff stepped in while McCollum-Boswell was on maternity leave last season.

Bohnhoff previously coached the Hearts from 1999 to 2014, producing an all-career record of 359 wins and 179 losses. Under Bohnhoff, the Hearts were five time regional champions.

While the 2019-2020 season brings back familiar faces like Bohnhoff and freshman coach Colleen Westendorf, the Hearts’ coaching staff brings new blood, too. Theresa Vogt was hired this year as the junior varsity coach.

Vogt is a graduate of St. Anthony High School and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Vogt played volleyball at both schools and came back to coach at St. Anthony High School and Grade School.

“I played volleyball at St. Anthony, and we were pretty successful when I went there. We went to the super sectionals back to back my junior and senior year. Then I walked on and played at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Then I had some medical issues that kept me from continuing on, but I stayed on to kind of help in a manager role there for a couple of years,” Vogt said.

“I coached for four years at St. Anthony. I assisted with Kristie Bailey and, whenever we were there, we were pretty successful. We were back in the super sectional again. I coached with her for four years, and I learned a lot from Kristie. She was a great leader. I coached at the junior high as well.”

After coaching with Bailey and at the junior high level, Vogt took a break from the coaching role to start her family. Vogt said it took some persuading from Bohnhoff to get her back into coaching volleyball. Despite her absence from the coaching scene, Vogt said she kept active in her favorite sport.

“I’ve played on rec leagues. I also play on a sand volleyball league at the Midway, and I became an IHSA official,” Vogt said.

Those park district recreation center leagues could not fill a void left when Vogt stepped away from coaching, however. She said she found that she missed the players and teaching girls about the sport she loves.

“I’ve always said the kids are my favorite part. I feel like they’re my kids. I protect them like they’re my kids,” the 31-year-old said.

Vogt has already brought a new element to the JV squad. She’s teaching the players new drills and techniques that she has brought with her from her days at St. Anthony. Vogt’s goal is to prime her players to move up to varsity next year but also keep a focus on improving their skills for this season.

Bohnhoff, Vogt and Westendorf already work well together. Vogt said the dynamic between the three coaches helps them to prepare each player for the next level.

Vogt said she views the junior varsity level as a time for players to find their niche but also become a player who can fill in at any position.

“That is exactly what I think JV is. You’re going to mess up. You really are because I’m making you learn things that you have never done before ever,” Vogt said. “It’s OK that you’re going to make some errors as long as we can work through it and get it figured out and stay positive. I’m trying to get them to a spot where if something does happen where varsity needs someone to go in, they are ready.”

At the varsity level, Bohnhoff is looking at a tall, talented yet young bunch with two returning starters. She, too, is looking for growth and skill development out of her varsity team.

Bohnhoff’s list of priorities when it comes to coaching are winning games, playing good volleyball and having fun doing so. That, Bohnhoff said, is how she wants her players to view the season, too.

“That’s kind of the order of how I try to get them to think about the game. I told the kids enjoy volleyball because then they’ll play it a ton, and they’ll get better and then we’ll win,” Bohnhoff said. “That’s probably my strength is just trying to motivate kids to play hard and enjoy the game.”

Bohnhoff said she expects her team to compete at a high level. Compared to her first time as head coach, Bohnhoff said she feels the level of competition both within and outside of the Apollo Conference has grown.

That level of competition, Bohnhoff said, will be the biggest challenge she and her team faces this season.

“When I first started coaching, half of the teams we played were either starter programs or just not really competitive. Half of our schedule was pretty tough and the other half, we kind of felt like we could win pretty easily,” Bohnhoff said. “Now, we hardly have any teams on our schedule that aren’t really competitive. That probably is the biggest change is the level of competition we play against.”

Bohnhoff said based on what she’s seen from her team in the pre-season, she thinks her team will have an exciting season with a possible run into the post season. Although the Hearts are a young squad, Bohnhoff said over time, her players are gaining confidence in their abilities.

Bohnhoff said her ultimate goal in her first year back as the Hearts’ head coach is to make her team better than they were at the beginning of the season.

“I think with how young we are (and) how young our servers are, I want us to be better at the end of the year than we were at the beginning,” Bohnhoff said. “I think the team we have this year at Effingham is as good as the teams I had 10, 15 years ago.”

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

Reporter

Kaitlin Cordes covers Effingham County, police and courts and sports features for the Effingham Daily News. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University. Cordes is a native of Effingham.

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