All-Area Volleyball Coach of Year: SJ-O's Abby McDonald
Why she’s Coach of the Year: School’s sixth-year head coach guided the Spartans (25-9) to Sangamon Valley Conference and regional titles, each time when the team entered the tournaments as the No. 4 seed. SJ-O was one of the state’s Sweet 16 entries in Class 2A, losing in the sectional finals.
Season highlights: “This season was unlike any other over the past eight years because we were only returning one senior (Shelby Simmons) with varsity experience. Thirteen of our 16 varsity players were new to the varsity roster. I had to remind myself that putting too much pressure on them early could hinder them from making the progress that I believed we had the potential to make. We talked a lot about the fact that wins and losses don’t matter much throughout the season if we are improving and using each match to get better. These kids really bought into this system and we steadily saw improvements throughout the season. Our senior leadership helped our kids improve over the course of our season and watching them exceed their expectations was worth the long road it took us to get there,” McDonald said.
A few of my favorites: First job, working at Read Pontiac (now Anthem Chevrolet), in Hoopeston ... Role models, my parents, Ken and Dana. They raised me to believe in myself and never give up. They have supported me in everything I have ever competed in or been a part of. They have instilled in me the importance of faith, and for that, I am forever grateful ... Last text, to my mom ... Driving 2010 Toyota Highlander ... Favorite food, soup ... Favorite restaurant, El Toro, in St. Joseph ... Favorite book, the Bible ... Favorite TV show, Parenthood ... Favorite athlete, Sam Kuhnert. He is a one-handed pitcher from Morthland College. He is the founder of NubAbility Athletics. He uses the talents God gave him to run athletic camps for kids with limb differences, like my daughter Hadley. He has blessed our family and inspired not only my child, but hundreds of others that now believe they don’t need ‘two to beat you’ ... If I weren’t teaching and coaching, I see myself spending more time with my husband, Phillip, and raising our kids, Hadley and Kru ... Three things on my Bucket List, I don’t have one, but just try to spend as much time with my friends and family and not take any day for granted.
About Coach McDonald: “Coach McDonald is everything a coach should be: knowledgeable, dedicated, competitive and motivating. She had confidence in us, which led to us believing in ourselves. Throughout the season, she emphasized the importance of learning and improving from each game. Coach McDonald pushed us to reach our full potential. She took us from an inexperienced young team at the beginning of the season and led us to win both the conference and regional championships. It was a privilege to play for Coach McDonald this year, and I look forward to playing for her again next season” — SJ-O junior Olivia Owens