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McLaughlin’s return to coaching creates a buzz at South Tahoe

Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily TribuneDan McLaughlin makes his South Tahoe High volleyball coaching debut Friday in Yerington. McLaughlin directed Whittell to six state championships, including five in a row.
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Brett Favre, eat your heart out.

Parents and players’ incessant pleadings to Dan McLaughlin to take over the South Tahoe High volleyball program have been answered. McLaughlin, one of the most successful volleyball coaches in Nevada high school history finally relented earlier this year.

After a three-year break from prep coaching, McLaughlin has assumed the reins at South Tahoe, just down the highway from where he established one of the great championship runs in state volleyball history. McLaughlin directed Whittell High School in Zephyr Cove to six state championships, including five in a row, before resigning in 2007.



“I was very happy to retire after Whittell and had no intention of coming over here,” McLaughlin said. “I got so many people who wanted me to coach here. I’ve known so many of these kids for so long that I just felt it was important that I do it. They didn’t have a coach, and they asked me to come in and see what I could do to help them.”

The returning players are excited and encouraged about the future of the program with McLaughlin now in charge.



“It feels like a fresh, new start, and I’m really looking forward to the season,” said senior Mel Sabac. “It looks like it’s going to be a new team, especially with him bringing in new fundamentals and structure.”

McLaughlin succeeds Meghan Reid, who directed the program through its final three years in the 4A Sierra Division League. South Tahoe will play in a more travel-and-enrollment friendly Class 3A league this fall, but that doesn’t mean the Vikings’ opponents will get any easier.

“The best team in Nevada is in the 3A, and that’s Truckee, so it doesn’t really help one way or another,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t care what league we’re in. At Whittell I beat everybody in Nevada continually, and that’s the whole point here. Whatever league we’re in we have to learn to play with the techniques that are gonna get us there. We have to learn how to win, and all the things that go into being a champion and what it takes mentally as well as physically.”

In addition to meeting Truckee twice, McLaughlin’s Vikings will square off with Whittell two times – an awkward situation for McLaughlin, who coached 12 seasons in Zephyr Cove.

“That is gonna be the hardest thing I’m ever gonna do is to walk into that gym a and see red and yellow across the way and knowing I’m trying to beat them,” he said.

Now the current Capital City Volleyball Club coach takes over a South Tahoe program that became overmatched in recent years and spiraled into the cellar of the 4A Sierra Division.

“We want to get back to being a dominant program, and these kids have dedicated to get back to it,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin is a stickler for technique and performing it that way that he suggests. In demanding proper technique, South Tahoe’s fundamental skills should see a marked improvement throughout the course of the season.

“I have a particular way that I want the game played, and I wanted the game played that way,” McLaughlin said. “To me it’s starting all over. Everybody is learning my system.

“They are my techniques, and they are proven winning techniques because they’ve been successful everywhere I’ve been and by a lot of coaches I know nationwide.”

His players are appreciating the daily learning that takes place.

“I’m excited for him to be coaching because he’s making us really work and he’s training us,” said senior Jessica Uibel. “It’s weird having to change our mindset that we can win, and I think we’re going to get far with him coaching.”

“It’s a lot more focused on each drill. We need to work a lot harder if we want to be successful,” said senior Ellen Dupree.

One of the assets that STHS has going into McLaughlin’s first season is height. At least six players stand at least 5-foot 10, including 6-3 Tori Smith, 6-0 Drew Norberg and 5-11 Kelsey Henderson.

In the short time McLaughlin has been in charge of the Vikings he has put together an impressive coaching staff made up former college players: freshman coach Monica Knight, an All-Colonial Conference player while with Hofstra; JV coach Dave Rashleigh; Linfield, Ore., volleyball alum Chelsea Mora, an assistant; and assistants Chris Paynter and Alex Stremmel, a former setted at Sacramento State.

“He brought in a great staff, not only for our team, but all the other teams, too,” said Gustafson, who admittedly was one of the players who recruited McLaughlin hard. “Not just varsity could have a great year, but all the teams could.

“New coaches and a whole new staff with a whole new league, it really feels like we have a chance.”

McLaughlin took Whittell to the state tournament in 11 of his 12 seasons. The players know his history of success and now they are determined to continue that trend.

“There’s a new type of pressure … a good pressure that drives you to do a lot better,” said senior setter Tiffany Racz.

Vikings at a glance

Coach: Dan McLaughlin, first year

Last year: 0-14 in Sierra Division play

Key returners: Mel Sabac, Ellen Dupree, Tiffany Racz, Kelsey Henderson, Alex Reber, Page Gustofson, Jessica Uibel

Opener: Today at Yerington tournament

STHS’s 2010 Schedule

Date Opponent/site Time

Today-Sat. Yerington tourney TBA

Sept. 16 At Fernley 6 p.m.

Sept. 24 DAYTON 6 p.m.

Sept. 25 At Fallon 1 p.m.

Sept. 30 At Incline 6 p.m.

Oct. 1 NORTH TAHOE 6 p.m.

Oct. 7 At North Tahoe 6 p.m.

Oct. 8 At Whittell 5 p.m.

Oct. 13 WHITTELL 6 p.m.

Oct. 15 INCLINE 6 p.m.

Oct. 19 TRUCKEE 6 p.m.

Oct. 22 At Sparks 6 p.m.

Oct. 28 SPARKS 6 p.m.

Oct. 29 At Truckee 6 p.m.

Note: Home games are in ALL CAPS.


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