By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The first time first-year Beal City volleyball coach Kelly David met with her new team, which actually is her old one too, the room was silent.
David is 20 years old, and starred for the Aggies only three seasons ago. Two of her seniors were freshman call-ups to varsity at the end of her final high school season, and one is her younger sister Monica. Those factors alone made this a rare situation.
“I think they were nervous,” Kelly David said. “They didn’t know what to expect from me.”
So far, it’s been more of the same for one of Michigan’s small-school volleyball powers, which has made the MHSAA Quarterfinals six of the last 11 seasons and the Semifinals twice during that time.
Beal City is 26-5-1 and ranked No. 3 in Class D. Four of those losses were to Class C teams: No. 2 St. Louis, No. 6 Morley Stanwood, No. 9 Pewamo-Westphalia and honorable mention Concord. The Aggies get a Second Half High 5 this week after avenging two of those losses by beating P-W and St. Louis en route to winning the Sharks’ Invitational on Saturday.
David is quick to explain that she’s merely picking up where previous coaches, including predecessor Randy Gallagher and his predecessor Kelly Knuth, left off. Beal City was a great landing spot for a first-time varsity coach.
But under David, the Aggies haven't missed a beat.
Beal City won its District last season despite moving into Class C, beating St. Louis in that final before losing to Morley-Stanwood in the Regional. But the Aggies graduated all-state second-team outside hitter Heather Griffis and then lost their coach of the last six seasons.
They're back on a roll. Until falling to St. Louis in pool play Saturday, Beal City hadn't lost since falling to Concord three weeks ago. The Aggies also own a win over rival Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart – the team that eliminated them from the postseason in 2010, and another over Class A Mount Pleasant.
Beal City came back to beat St. Louis 25-19, 25-19 in the championship match Saturday, perhaps its most impressive win so far.
“We got used to the fast-paced game, and that helped us out,” David said of avenging the day’s earlier loss. “We gained confidence through it. Learning has a lot to do with believing in yourself and knowing you can win.”
David was a standout setter in high school after moving up to varsity at the end of her freshman season and served as a captain as both a junior and senior. Setters run a volleyball team on the court, and during that time her coaching interest began to take root.
She played two seasons at St. Clair Community College before transferring as a student only to Central Michigan University, where she’s studying to become an elementary school teacher. David coached a seventh grade team and also club ball while at St. Clair, and when Gallagher didn’t return, she applied to take over.
The talent she inherited eased the transition. Senior setter Jade Kennedy was one of those freshmen who moved up when David was a senior, and she took over as setter the next season and made all-region in 2011. She’s surrounded by a number of players who have made contributions; among them, Monica David and junior Addie Schumacher give the Aggies two talented blockers in the middle, and junior outside hitter Melanie Schafer has been dynamic particularly on defense.
Better blocking was a main thing Kelly David noticed when she moved on to the college level, and that’s been a point of emphasis in her first season as coach. So has increasing her players’ knowledge of the game, how to position themselves and place the ball and use their athleticism to the best of their abilities.
The St. Louis win produced a surge in confidence that should carry through into the playoffs later this month. Despite its high ranking, Beal City probably wasn’t the favorite entering the day.
“The whole team was pulling for each other. Everyone wanted to win, and no one was tired,” David said. “We had confidence, and once we got that far, we pretty much refused to lose.”
PHOTO: Beal City's Nicole Gross sends the ball over the net during a win over Shepherd earlier this season. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).