By Missy Schrott | email@example.com
Bishop Ireton’ varsity volleyball team recently completed its best-ever season with 22 wins and 9 losses. The team advanced to the championships of both the VISAA state and the WCAC league tournaments.
“I think it was a good year,” Head Coach Owen Ranger said. “We fell a little short of both of our primary goals – we wanted to win the WCAC championship and win a state title, but we made it to the finals in both, which was still a first for volleyball at Ireton.”
Ranger said he walked into a good situation and talented roster when he accepted the coaching position: seven of the 14 players were seniors who had previously played on varsity and almost the entire starting line up from the 2016-2017 season returned this season.
Ranger, 34, has been coaching various sports for nearly half his life, since he graduated from high school at 17. After spending the past few years coaching basketball in Prince George’s County, Ranger said he was looking for a full time job that included a coaching component. This is the first volleyball team he’s coached since 2013. He is also a substitute teacher at BI.
“I feel like it took us a while, [for] them to get used to me and me to get used to them, because it’s hard coming in as a new guy that they’d never seen before,” Ranger said. “But I think that the leaders on the team really worked hard and listened right away and set the tone for everybody for a successful season.”
In their practices this year, Ranger’s approach was to push the already talented team further than they were used to in training. He said he often played with the team in six on six scrimmages to challenge them to get a ball past a 6-foot-4-inch man who could jump.
“For this group, [my approach] was to push them to be really competitive in practice, to approach every practice, every drill as an opportunity to improve and not to just sort of show up and mentally be checked out somewhere else,” Ranger said.
“I’m really glad I got this opportunity and have helped keep an already good team good, pushed them a little bit further,” he said.
Ranger said he would have to switch up his approach next year, when he will have to adjust to losing the seven senior players. Of the seniors, two are first-team all-state players, and two are second-team all-state players.
“Five or six of my seniors could play college volleyball if they wanted,” Ranger said. “I don’t know that all of them will, but that many could.”
One of the seniors, Claire Farrell, is verbally committed to play for the College of William & Mary next year. She was named WCAC player of the year and has set school records for kills in a match, kills in a season and kills in a career during her four years on the BI Varsity Volleyball team.
“She’s just a tremendous all-around player,” Ranger said.
Ranger said his favorite part about coaching is developing relationships with players.
“It’s always felt like the right thing to do for me. It’s always felt like home,” he said.
“It’s been a lot of fun and I hope we can keep the winning tradition going strong even though next year is gonna be a whole different outfit.”