PREVIEW: Volleyball coaching staff to visit old stomping grounds with Georgia Southern in tow

Amanda Arnold

The Georgia Southern volleyball team will travel to the Carolinas to take on Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State this weekend, but the annual trip will be different than before.

Head Coach Chad Willis was an associate head coach at App State for six seasons and announced his move to Georgia Southern in January. He was the head of recruiting and was primarily in charge of the offense. 

In his tenure, he helped to lead the Mountaineers to two Sun Belt Championship appearances, three seasons with at least 20 wins and a bid to the 2018 National Invitational Volleyball Championship.

This weekend will be the first time that he will enter the Holmes Convocation Center as head coach of the Eagles.

In tow, he brings the two assistant coaches who were with him at App State as well. Taylor Sherwin spent three seasons as an assistant there, where she was primarily in charge of the setters. Efrain Negron was an assistant coach at App State in 2015 when the Mountaineers reached the Sun Belt Championship and finished with a 22-8 record and 13-3 conference record. He left App State for Bowling Green and Clemson, but returned to Willis’ side when he was hired here at GS.

Going into Sunday’s game at App State, GS holds a 5-6 record and App State is 4-9. This will be both teams’ second conference game of the season.

The environment will likely be bitter sweet for the staff because of the extensive history between the two programs. 

“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t think there’s going to be a little bit more emotionally at stake, at least for Taylor, and I,” Willis said. “One of my focuses here is to intensify that rivalry and make it something that fans are going to enjoy being a part of, make it something that our team is going to enjoy being a part of… It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net, like, we’re gonna fight you tooth and nail, you’re going to get our best effort, and I don’t care who you are. Our jobs are tricky, complicated, so we’re going to beat the tar out of you. That’s what we want to do every single match.”

Since Willis and company have arrived in Statesboro, their main priority has been to change the team culture. The program has not had a winning record since 2013, when the team was still a part of the SoCon conference. 

App State is led by junior middle blocker Kara Spicer. She led the team in blocks last year and has notched 146 kills this season, along with senior outside hitter Emma Longley who made First Team All-Sun Belt last season. She has made 610 total attacks so far.

Before Willis can be reunited with his former home, GS will have to face a strong Coastal Carolina team that holds a 10-2 record. They are led by sophomore opposite Anett Nemeth, who grabbed Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for her performance in the Cy-Hawk Series held by Iowa.

The Chanticleers’ only losses are from Iowa State and Lipscomb last weekend, where they entered the tournament undefeated.

Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Sports Editor,