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Former club coach turned down college jobs to take on Skyhawk challenge in '19

COURTESY PHOTO: MATT COGHLAN - Southridge head volleyball coach Matt Coghlan was hired after extensive experience coaching at the club and collegiate level.

The past three years were a sort of golden era for the Southridge volleyball program.

Blessed with angular athletes like Cameron Brink and Natalie Hoff, the best passer in the state in Lindsay Lambert, and a coach in Carol Lambert who guided many of the Skyhawks at the youth level, Southridge dominated. The addition of Chloe Brown along with the incumbents brought about both a Metro League and Class 6A state title in 2017. When Brown, Brink and Hoff left last year, the Lamberts still helped take Southridge to the second round of the 6A playoffs. 

But over the offseason Lindsay Lambert graduated and Carol Lambert stepped down as the last of her senior class moved on. Many thought the Skyhawks' heyday was over. That challenge, however, was something that appealed to Matthew Coghlan as he surveyed the coaching scene and plotted out his next move. A former high school volleyball star from Hilo, Hawaii, Coghlan played collegiately at New York University and jumped into coaching after his playing days were over.

Coghlan coached for the Shockwave Academy for three years, during which he spent a significant amount of time shadowing Chris Lamb at Wichita State University. He was aware of Southridge's past prowess and the potential it still held. So, even as jobs at the Division One and Division Two level reached out to him, Coghlan centered himself on the Skyhawk opening. With a clean slate, Coghlan could put his stamp on a program that's already proven it can put up banners with the right mix of talent and coaching. Young, hungry, and seasoned from his days as a player and a coach, Coghlan was a natural choice for athletic director Trisha Shoemaker and the Southridge administration, who hired Coghlan in January. 

"I was very interested in the challenge of rebuilding a program that many felt may have had its best days behind it," Coghlan said. "(Shoemaker) was very supportive of my vision and it feels great to have an administrator that wants you and the program to succeed. I know I wanted to coach in the Metro due to the competitiveness of the league."

Learning at the knee of Lamb, who won National College Coach of the Year in 2017, Coghlan said he picked up a brand of volleyball not often associated with the high school level. 

"If I could describe it in one word, I'd probably go with "efficient"," Coghlan said. "Understanding scarcity, whether it is the finite amount of swings teams have in a game and ensuring they are allocated appropriately to maximize point scoring opportunities or it may be identifying the strongest correlators to winning and making sure those are the things we focus on during practice. Some of the things we may roll out might go against the grain a little but I've found to be quite successful."

Exactly who Coghlan is coaching on the court in his first year at the helm remains to be seen. A coach with Coghlan's clout, age and extensive background should help bring back many of the returners who suited up alongside Lambert last fall. Senior Emily Bunnell brings a lot of experience to the Skyhawks' young group. Bunnell could end up being our Southridge's only senior. Coghlan said Southridge will rely heavily on her to be that stabilizing presence on the outside. 

"We expect to be competitive," Coghlan said. "We are young and raw but are quickly getting better. I loved the way we worked over the summer and how camp went. I'm bringing a different brand of volleyball to the Metro, both stylistically in how we play and also how we train. It's quite a steep learning curve. I expect to make a few waves maybe not earlier on as we iron out the kinks, but definitely in the second half of the season."

The Metro League has not lacked dramatic title chases over the last three or four years. Sunset, Jesuit and Southridge have all staked claim as the conference's preeminent program for different periods. Mountainside is on the move as a power, seeing the Mavericks bring their entire roster back. The Crusaders lost a star-studded senior class and the Apollos graduated two of their all-state studs. Where Southridge stacks up is a mystery until Coghlan knows who he has at his disposal, but it should be a captivating regular season with more teams in the Metro mix. 

"My understanding is that Jesuit is a staple at the top of the rankings," Coghlan said. "I've heard many teams graduated talent except for Mountainside so they could be in the running. More established programs usually have something always coming up the pipeline so I'd imagine the top will look similar to years past."

COURTESY PHOTO: MATT COGHLAN - Southridge head volleyball coach Matt Coghlan was hired after extensive experience coaching at the club and collegiate level.

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