SEQUOYAH – Zoe Kersey has experienced tremendous success in her young coaching career.
After spending six years coaching freshmen at Stillwater High School, she took over as the varsity coach and immediately took the program to new heights with consecutive Class 6A state tournament appearances. In 2018, her Lady Pioneers finished as state runner-up.
Those efforts earned Kersey, then with her maiden name Stinchcomb, the Stillwater News Press All-Area Fall Sports Coach of the Year in back-to-back years.
However, making the daily commute from her home in Tulsa to Stillwater was becoming strenuous, and she also met her future husband Jason, a Foyil native, during her time in Stillwater.
She was looking for a way to get closer to home, and that opportunity arrived when the Bixby job became available in the spring of 2019.
Kersey landed the opportunity and spent three seasons with the Lady Spartans before being named the new Sequoyah volleyball coach on April 12.
Needless to say, the work commute from Foyil is now even easier.
“I’m about a seven-minute drive to work now instead of a two-hour one,” said Kersey, who sports a 98-67 record in her five years as a head coach. “I really liked Stillwater. I loved the small-town feel that it had, and I’m getting that small-town feel now with Claremore Sequoyah, and I’m really enjoying it.
“The biggest thing I’m really loving about Sequoyah so far – I mean it’s a big change going from coaching 6A to going to a 3A program – is I get to go back to what I did with freshmen in Stillwater, which is development. Just teach them the game, teach them the basics, teach them the technique. I get to finally go back to that, go back to the basics.”
Key Question: How dedicated are the Lady Eagles
Understandably, changes are to be expected when transitioning from Class 6A volleyball to Class 3A volleyball.
Kersey has been involved in large-school volleyball for a chunk of her life, having competed at the Class 5A-6A levels while a student-athlete at Bishop Kelley in addition to coaching stops at Stillwater and Bixby.
“I’ve never really seen the 3A world – the small volleyball world – so I’m eager to see how that all pans out,” Kersey said.
One of the differences she has noticed is the overall dedication to volleyball.
According to her, athletes in Class 6A are much more specialized to one sport. Many of her players focused all of their efforts on volleyball, whereas Sequoyah boasts more multisport athletes.
If Kersey can get her roster to buy in to her philosophies, the Lady Eagles have a great chance to improve on last year’s 13-12 record.
“For the girls, I’m looking to see how interested they really are in volleyball,” Kersey said. “You really have to work with the girls’ schedules and see what it is that they’re really passionate about. Are they in volleyball for the long haul or just for a season or two?”
Key Returners: Jayden White (senior), Lena Warembourg (junior) and Ady Johnson (sophomore)
Kersey has been impressed with White’s serving ability and willingness to change things up a little bit. Her primary position is middle blocker.
Warembourg and Kersey are familiar with each other because of the club scene, which made the coaching transition much easier for the program.
“She knew who I was and was able to influence those girls in a positive way and say, ‘Hey, this is a really good change,’” Kersey said of the junior setter.
Johnson has a clear commitment to volleyball given her involvement with the club circuit in Tulsa, and Kersey said the sophomore’s family has been an integral part of the Sequoyah volleyball program for a long time.
Key Game: Aug. 11 vs. Berryhill
Kersey said it is hard scheduling matches within the same class because schools in Class 3A are so spread out, so there will be several instances where the Lady Eagles battle a larger school.
Some of these opponents include Sapulpa, Oologah, Catoosa, Verdigris and first-year program Pryor, but Berryhill stands out because it will be the first foe from a bigger division.
“We’re playing quite a few larger schools,” Kersey said. “I’d say (Berryhill) is a pretty good one. Being a 3A school getting to play against a little bit of a bigger school, it’ll really test you.”