INMAN — It’s always difficult following a legend.
But Emily Butler is doing just fine, thank you.
Butler is in her first year as Inman High head volleyball coach, succeeding Russ Goering, who stepped down last season after 704 victories and two state championships.
But Butler has guided the Teutons to 14 straight wins to open the season and even though the team is unblemished, it’s been going unnoticed on the state scene as it’s yet to be ranked. What she wants to do is keep her team grounded and focus on the task at hand. And if a speed bump finally comes along, the Teutons will deal with it.
“I don't really worry about rankings. As long as we continue to work hard the rest will take care of itself,” Butler said.
Goering was in his second stint as Inman coach and after last year finally decided to retire for good. The team won 27 matches in his swan song, but he didn’t leave Butler high and dry. The team had a solid nucleus returning and that experience has paid off in a big way.
“Russ has done a great job as head coach. I was very excited to get started,” Butler said. “The girls have really bought into what we are saying this year. And all I wanted for them to see is that teamwork and hard work bring results. And I am proud of their start so far.”
Butler is hardly a novice. Volleyball is in her blood, first as a player and now as a coach. Her passion for the game is contagious as the Teutons are playing with a lot of fire.
“I’ve been around volleyball ever since I can remember,” she said. “As a player I graduated from Hutch Trinity. One of my highlights there was making the All-State team my junior year. From there I went on to play at HCC (Hutchinson Community College) for a year. That year we finished 8th at nationals. From Hutch I left to play a year at Arkansas State. After lots of prayer, I decided to move home to Fort Hays State and focus on schooling. At FHSU I student-coached for one season. I graduated with my degree in Health and Human Performance. I moved back home and taught P.E. at Hutchinson Middle School for 2 years. I coached the seventh-grade volleyball team. I now teach at Inman Elementary School going on my second year.”
The Teutons opened the season by winning their own tournament, then this past Saturday did not lose a set in winning the Solomon Invitational for a 10th time.
Butler emphasizes the team concept, but in Jalyn Froese, Kassie Sneath and MaKayla Michael she has three players that could play for anybody.
“Our outsides are strong with Jalyn Froese and the return of Kassie Sneath (from an injury),” Butler said. “MaKayla Michael has moved to the middle and is doing a great job. (We are) the emphasis of team. Our five seniors are doing a great job of leading by example. I love our willingness to fight this year. We talk about winning the battles of that day and they are all doing a great job.”
Butler knows the level of competition is going to increase.
“After tomorrow we are on the road for the rest of the season,” she said. “So every match will be a battle. We have to face Moundridge and Sedgwick again on the road so that will be a lot of fun.”