Kelly Dickensheets is coaching the state's top-ranked volleyball program for the first time in her extensive career, a position that seemed impossible a year ago.
Dickensheets took the volleyball helm at Hebron in 1979, starting with the girls program. She began to coach the boys squad in the fall of 1983, then picked up spring boys volleyball in 1994 -- a year after resigning as girls coach.
Last spring was supposed to be the swan song for Dickensheets. Her husband, Duane, a teacher at West Central, and Kelly, a teacher at Hebron, resigned from those posts last year.
The Hawks boys volleyball team lost to Carmel in last May's championship of the Indiana Boys High School Volleyball Association Tournament.
Parents pleaded with Dickensheets to come back to Hebron this past fall for one final Porter County Conference campaign. At the awards banquet, Jill Biggs, mother of senior player Trey Biggs, talked with "Coach D." The Hawks went unbeaten in their fall season, and she was asked to stay on for one more spring season.
"My dad thinks I'm absolutely nuts," Dickensheets said. "He told me I should've walked away, 'You wouldn't see me again.'"
Dickensheets didn't take her father's advice, but I don't know if I totally disagree with his stance.
The spring job is a volunteer one -- no salary. Dickensheets said her family's income sank from over $100,000 to under $30,000 after the retirement.
"I cannot quit on these kids," Dickensheets said. "We really want a state title bad. We've got the red medal. Now we want the blue one."
Hebron won a boys volleyball state title in 1986, but that was in the fall and less than 10 teams participated.
At least 30 schools are involved in the spring format, many of them several times the size of Hebron: Carmel, Indianapolis Cathedral, Franklin, Indianapolis Roncalli -- even Chesterton.
"This title would mean so much more," said Dickensheets, who believes this year's Hebron squad would've defeated the '86 team. "It's great to compete with schools that size."
Compete? Hebron has had two runner-up finishes, four semifinal appearances and been a member of the state tourney the last 13 seasons.
This season, the club is ranked No. 1 in the polls for the first time in program history.
"There is pressure," said Biggs, who will play volleyball at Hannibal-LaGrange (Mo.) University next fall. "Every match we go in expecting to win. We want to win it this year. We don't want the season to be a waste for her."
I understand his sentiment. Dickensheets has residences in Monticello and San Pierre, the closest more than 40 minutes one-way driving distance to Hebron. Also, players pay a nominal fee to play in the regular-season tournaments -- and there's no cost for the state tournament.
For those reasons, I'm rooting that 'Coach D' brings home some blue medals on May 25.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.