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After six years as an assistant at South Albany, Newton takes the reigns at the perennial powerhouse

Denae Newton played volleyball at Crook County High School in the late '90s and early 2000s.

The multi-sport star graduated from CCHS in 2001 and went on to earn a teaching degree and start a teaching career.

However, the love for volleyball that she developed while playing for CCHS head volleyball coach Rosie Honl never left.LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Denae Newton stands in front of a photo of a team she played on during her freshman year of high school at Crook County that is now displayed in the CCHS trophy case. Newton, who graduated from CCHS in 2001, was recently named the head volleyball coach at Philomath.

For the past six years, Newton has been the JV volleyball coach at South Albany High School.

Newton recently accepted the head volleyball coaching position at Philomath High School.

"I'm so excited, and the more I'm around the players, just running open gyms, the more coachable they seem," Newton said. "They are changing a lot. I'm kind of uprooting some systems and I'm doing exactly what Rosie taught."

Newton was part of the 2000 CCHS volleyball team, the first CCHS team of Honl's to reach the state playoffs.

Since then, CCHS has reached the playoffs 18 consecutive years and has won eight state championships.

Although Philomath has a history of volleyball success, including tying for last year's league championship, they have stumbled once they reach the state playoffs.

The team has been in the playoffs six of the last seven years, but only once have they advanced past the first round.

In order to change that, Newton is implementing the Gold Medal Squared System that Honl has long been a proponent of.

In order to jump-start the changes, Newton was in Prineville this past week with her team as they participated in the Rimrock Volleyball Team Camp.

"I think that they were on overload, but they had a blast," Newton said about the camp experience.

Philomath reached the semifinals of the annual camp tournament before falling 34-32 to Barlow.

Newton, who will continue to teach at South Albany, says that it will take some time to change the direction that the program is heading.

"I haven't really been focusing on win-loss right now," she said. "I know that last year they tied for first in their league, but I'm really focused on the defensive system that I want them to learn. We are going to take a few steps back and reteach some structurally sound fundamentals. They are having to relearn everything, but I'm hoping long-term-wise that it will push them a little farther into the (state) tournament."

Philomath has several players with extensive varsity experience, including two who Newton said have played club volleyball. However, the team is also filled with youth as six freshmen made the trip to Crook County.

Newton believes that the blend of youth and experience should make for an exciting year.

She said that the coach her team was given for team camp told the team "any coach would be psyched to see this group of girls."

Not only does the team have some experience, they also have size.

"I'm going to absolutely utilize the size as best as I can," Newton said.

Teaching at South Albany while coaching at Philomath will require some adjustments.

Newton noted that she will get out of school at South Albany at 3:30 p.m. then have to drive to Philomath, where she will begin practice at 4:30 p.m.

"It's not a huge commute, but we will have to start practice a little late," she noted. "But, you know, I'm excited to start and I'm thankful. I feel blessed that I had the models that I had because they have instilled the sort of passion to build these really awesome people into great volleyball players and great human beings."

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