The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 28, 2013

Hill climbs into top spot at Lakeside

Assistant takes step up to take over the Dragons’ volleyball program

For the Star Beacon

— Alyssa Hill always had a pretty good idea what path her career would follow.

“My goal was to be able come back and coach,” she said. “I got my teaching degree and I wanted to coach. I come from a big sports family, so that was kind of predestined.

“My dad coached me growing up and he taught me so much, I wanted to bring that to other kids.”

After four years of serving as an understudy, the daughter of Edward and Nancy Hill, will head up her own program as the volleyball coach at Lakeside.

“It just sounded like a good opportunity,” Hill said. “At the time, I was hoping to work under Norm a little longer. But after he left, I figured why not step up and run my own program? I have experience.

“I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to step up and do what I’ve wanted to do. I’m ready to make a difference in the program.”

Hill, 26, is the third coach in as many years for the Dragons and takes over a program that was 2-21 last fall under coach Norm Potter and 2-19 in 2011 under Lisa Newsome. The last time the Dragons had a winning season was when Newsome led them to a 20-5 record a share of the Premier Athletic Conference title with Riverside and a Division I sectional championship.

Being at Lakeside has been a good fit for Hill so far.

“Truly, from my first day, I felt welcome,” she said. “It’s a great staff. I always felt like I had support behind me.”      

A teacher in the district, Hill had previously served as the eighth-grade and junior varsity volleyball coach, high school and middle school track coach and seventh-grade girls basketball coach.

“Every coaching experience has its ups and downs,” she said. “You learn from every one of them. Every experience gives you more insight as a coach. It helps you to know what to do differently and how to encourage the players to work harder and how to help them meet their goals.”

Hill spent her high school days at Madison and went on to get a degree in early childhood education with a fourth- and fifth-grade endorsement from Youngstown State.

At this point, Hill isn’t sure what her teaching job will be, but she most likely will be in the high school.

“I get moved around every year,” she said. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing this next year.”

There will be plenty of familial support for Hill as she undertakes the program.

“My dad and mom will be in the stands rooting me on,” she said. “So will my brother (Bryan). He coached at Madison and now he’s just graduating from college. I’m fortunate enough he’s back from school. I rooted him on and now that’s he’s done, he can root me on.

“I can always use the extra support. It’s helpful.”

Having been in the program with both Potter and Newsome was beneficial to Hill.

“Lisa taught me I need to be strict and to go get what I want,” she said.  “If I want the girls to do something, I have to go show them what I want.

“I learned so much from Norm with drills and different activities. He has a vast knowledge of the rules. I wasn’t confident I could be a varsity coach, but I learned the whole rule book from Norm. I know I’ll be OK.”

Both Newsome and Potter have already extended a hand in Hill’s direction as she takes over.

“Lisa has already contacted me, as has Norm, and they said they’d help in any way I needed,” Hill said. “I’m lucky enough to have the support of the coaches who were before me. I’m also fortunate a lot of teachers have volunteered to come take stats. A number of people have volunteered their time.

“Lisa will be somebody I’m constantly in contact with.”

Hill knows the younger Dragons very well, which will help her as she transitions into the varsity coach.

“We’re fortunate in that we do have some very young talent,” she said. “I coached them in eighth grade and then on the JV, so I’ll have been with them three years. I can start right in working on what I know already needs fixed.

“The main thing is consistency from them and having somebody consistently there for them.”

Assisting Hill will be JV coach Julie Stern and Amber Nowakowski, who’s relationship with Hill goes back a long way.

“My JV coach and I work well together,” Hill said. “She’s someone I can depend on. Our eighth-grade coach played with me in high school. We know each other well. I’m lucky enough to have a solid coaching staff.”

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.