By Chris Parker
Bolivar volleyball has a new head coach, but he is no stranger to coaching volleyball.
Tony Phelps takes over a Bolivar squad that won just four matches last year. Phelps is a 30-year volleyball coaching veteran. He was a head high school coach for eight years in Iowa, 17 in Illinois and also started a small college volleyball program in southern Illinois where he coached for two years.
Being closer to his daughter and grandchildren is what brought him to Bolivar.
“We moved here in 2017. I am a retired school teacher. My daughter lives in Bolivar. My wife and I both decided when we retired we were going to move to Bolivar to be grandma and grandpa,” Phelps said. “The job opened up. My daughter is really the one who pushed me. I thought I was done coaching, but the more I thought about it the more I thought it would be fun to try and get involved again. I really missed it.”
So far things are going well for Phelps, as the team is ready to improve upon last year’s four-win season.
“The kids are buying into it. There aren’t a dramatic amount of changes. I changed some things on defense but offensively they are set,” Phelps said. “Really for me it is just coming in and establishing just my twist and turn on things. The athletes are already there and the dedication is already there. The kids are excited and want to win.”
Phelps will have a young team with just two seniors in his first season as head coach of the Lady Liberators. Those two seniors are Emma Larimore and Lily Shepard. Larimore will again be the team’s libero after tallying 419 digs and 519 serve-receives last season.
“She (Larimore) is just all over the floor. She is very highly respected by her teammates,” Phelps said.
Sophomore Rachel Carr returns after leading Bolivar in kills with 116 as a freshman.
“She (Carr) played middle last year. I moved her to the left side, and she is just blossoming out there,” Phelps said. “She really loves it. She can hit the ball a little bit more, and she can take a longer approach. She has done very well out there.”
That move is made possible thanks to the arrival of freshmen Cora Roweton and Dailynn VanDerron.
“They (Roweton and VanDerron) have been a real surprise. I knew they were pretty good because I went and watched them play club ball back in the spring. I couldn’t believe my eyes that they were just freshmen,” Phelps said.
Hallie Tucker will be the team’s primary setter this year after splitting time at the position last year. The junior accounted for 189 assists.
Even with the youth on the roster, Bolivar has its eyes set squarely on a winning season.
“We are hoping to have a winning season. Last year was a tough deal,” Phelps said. “I think we have an excellent chance of having a winning season based on what I am seeing this summer. We are competing with everybody we play with. It gives you a lot of confidence for once we get to practicing every day I just think we will do nothing but get better.”
Bolivar opens the season on Sept. 3 at Osceola.