Former Illini McClure named STM volleyball's next coach

Former Illini McClure named STM volleyball's next coach

CHAMPAIGN — A familiar name on the Champaign-Urbana volleyball scene is accepting perhaps her biggest challenge as a coach.

Kelly McClure will take over the St. Thomas More program, the school announced Sunday night. McClure, a former Illinois volleyball standout, assisted Stan Bergman during the Sabers’ run to third place in Class 2A earlier this school year.

Bergman vacated the top job at STM on April 16 and simultaneously was named to the same role at Mahomet-Seymour.

“I was a little bit sad that Stan would be moving on, because he was such a great role model and coach for our team,” McClure said. “And then as it unfolded, I did give thought to wanting to coach this team. They’re a great group of girls. They’re committed to each other and to just get better each time they step into the gym.”

In addition to her year spent on the STM staff, McClure guided the St. Matthew’s eighth-grade squad to an IESA Class 2A state championship in 2018.

That followed four years spent under Mike Hebert and Don Hardin as an Illini outside hitter and middle blocker, culminating in a first-team All-Big Ten honor in 1996.

So even though McClure has never before helmed a prep volleyball crew before, it’s apparent the Sabers are gaining someone with experience succeeding in the sport.

“They’re big shoes to fill with Stan leaving, and STM has a tradition of a strong volleyball program,” McClure said. “There was just an alignment with (my) goals and the vision STM has for their head coach and for what the team’s goals are.”

“We had the pleasure to witness (McClure’s) talents all season long as a new addition to North Mattis last year, and we can’t wait to see Kelly put her stamp on the program,” Sabers co-athletic director Josh Hinkley added in a statement. “She is an energetic, positive and faith-filled woman, and we know she will be an impactful role model and leader for the team.”

STM has compiled consecutive state-qualifying seasons, winning the 2A title in 2017.

Although the Sabers lose libero Haley Elam and outside hitter Kayla Brandon to graduation, returnees for the 2019 season include reigning News-Gazette Player of the Year Allie Trame at middle blocker, setter Caroline Kerr and outside hitter Anna McClure, Kelly’s daughter.

Trame is an Alabama commit heading into her senior season, while Kerr and Anna McClure are coming off promising freshman seasons.

“It’s a special opportunity, getting to work with a talented group of student-athletes,” Kelly McClure said. “There’s a lot to learn, but I’m here to do that.”

McClure felt it was important to have that one year actually seeing the Sabers in practice and from the sidelines in order for her to understand exactly what she’s taking on as the program leader.

Her approach mostly will follow an old mantra: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

“I’m sure there’ll be a few tweaks that we make, but really we’re just going to continue to have a highly competitive practice atmosphere,” McClure said, “and just continue to build upon the foundation that was laid in the past.”