Jeff Maier’s phone started blowing up with texts and calls in late May with everyone asking the same question.
The Kouts girls volleyball coaching position had recently come open and members on the team wanted to know if he was interested in taking over the program. There was one player more eager than the rest to find out the answer: junior setter Abby Maier.
“The first thing popped into my head when (Karley Staal) resigned was if my dad would want the job,” Abby said. “I had this idea that he would be interested. Then one day I was hanging out with some of my teammates and he texted me that he was taking over. We were very excited.”
The pairing of father and daughter as coach and player never seemed to be in the cards for Jeff and Abby. Jeff had previously served as an assistant at his alma mater, Boone Grove, but appeared to leave coaching for good six years ago. Work took him out of state for weeks at a time when his oldest daughter, Hannah, was a star at Kouts and Abby was in middle school.
Jeff returned to the area full time in the fall of 2017 and he helped fill in at Boone Grove last year when coach Matt Bien was dealing with some health issues. Still, the prospect of coaching Abby or at Kouts was never really in the plans, regardless of how interested he appeared to be. That all changed when Staal stepped down just days before open gym practices began in the summer.
“It’s a dream to coach, not only Abby, but this entire team,” Jeff said. “We have some young players in the program that I’ve gotten to know over the years and I’m really excited to watch them grow.”
Jeff admits that Abby gets a lot of leeway to play her own style on the floor, but that has little to do with the family relationship and more to do with Abby’s talent. The junior setter has been named to the All-Porter County Conference team two years in a row, including as a freshman when Hannah was named PCC Player of the Year. Abby’s experience running Kouts’ offense has led to some spirited conversations with her coach, but those discussions stop when the Maier’s leave the gym.
“We talk a lot, about how we can change things, about how different things are working,” Abby said. “It seems we have a match every day of the week, but then when we get to the weekend, he’s back to being my Dad.”
Crown Point preparing for postseason run
The common theme among Crown Point’s five losses this season is that each one has come against a team outside of Northwest Indiana. Coach Alison Duncan orchestrated a difficult schedule this season that was designed to test the Bulldogs so they would be ready for the postseason. After a third-place finish at the Crown Point Invite last weekend that featured a loss to McCutcheon, Duncan feels her squad is ready.
“It’s been important for us to see (invite champion) Zionsville and to play McCutcheon,” Duncan said. “We’re close. We have to change a few things defensively and then we can be right there. We just have to win a sectional and a regional and we can compete with those teams at the semistate level.”
Duncan isn’t counting her chickens in the postseason just yet. She knows the Bulldogs will have a target on their back. Crown Point is 10-0 in the Duneland Athletic Conference and has four matches against conference foes over the next two weeks before the postseason begins.
“Everyone wants to knock us off and our players are used to that,” Duncan said. “I’ve created a schedule that is difficult and will keep them hungry for higher level play and higher level teams.”
Marquette overcoming adversity
Marquette enters the final two weeks of the regular season in prime position to top last season’s mark of 16 victories and to secure the school’s first winning record since the 2013 season. The Blazers (13-11) have been battling adversity this season as coach Matt Zima has missed time with the team to be with his ailing mother. Assistant coach Xena Newland has filled in after being added to the program shortly before the season began.
“With the girls having to make adjustments this season, it’s made them stronger, both for the game of volleyball and for their futures,” Zima said. “Our leadership on the team has been as important as coaching. Our work is cut out for us, but we’ve got six seniors that are really ready to go on a run here. We’ve been playing really well recently and I would love to see us be able to push teams and get a couple wins that nobody expects.”
Zima is expected to return to the Blazers later this week in time for this Sunday’s sectional draw announcement.