In the clouds that everyday life presents sometimes, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, the story of volleyball coach Allen Perry proves that if an individual stays the course, things will ultimately work themselves out for the best.
After Perry, who led the South Point volleyball program for five seasons after a stint at Greenup County, took a job teaching chemistry and biology inside the Wheelersburg school system, he never expected to be coaching volleyball again simply due to the fact that the position wasn’t open at the time.
But like turning quad-aces in a game of Texas Hold’Em, the 43-year old Southern Ohio native saw that exact story come true in front of his very eyes as the Pirates’ volleyball position came open after Kendra Coleman resigned from the post earlier this spring. Perry was then hired as the head coach of a unit that went 20-5 in 2016 and sits in a position to continue the success that has been established within the program.
For Perry, coaching a program that has consistently been strong with the SOC II and Southern Ohio realm is simply a thought that is mind-blowing to him.
“I have the utmost respect for this program,” Perry said. “When the job came open, it was a premier job and I just jumped on it. The teaching job came open first, and I took that job. I didn’t think that I would ever be a head coach again, but then, not long after that, the volleyball coaching position came open, and I’m like, ‘My goodness. If I get this position, it would be unreal.’ It just came together. I’m so excited to be at Wheelersburg and I’m so excited to coach that program.”
Oddly enough, it wasn’t the first time that the pieces seemed to all fall together for Perry. Initially, he wasn’t even looking to coach the sport at all — ‘just filling a need,’ in fact — when Perry was brought on as an assistant volleyball coach within the Greenup County (Ky.) program.
“I was just filling a need that the school had,” Perry said. “I kind of got hooked on volleyball, and thought that it was an exciting sport.”
His experience there then led the 43-year old to an opportunity at South Point, where, once again, Perry was just taking a teaching position when the head coaching position came open within the Pointers’ program.
“I went over to South Point to take a teaching job, and the head volleyball coaching position came open,” Perry said. “It just fell into my lap there, and I just took it and ran with it.”
Ran with it, to put it lightly. With South Point, Allen completely turned around a program that had fallen on hard times by leading the Pointers to a 62-30 mark over the last four seasons — including a high-water mark of 19-5 in 2014. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, South Point won at least one postseason game and reached the district semifinals.
Now, Perry will look to continue that trend of upward mobility with Wheelersburg, where district appearances have been the norm, but not regional showings. In each of the past four seasons, the Pirates have entered the postseason as a No. 1 seed, but haven’t advanced out of the district semifinals in three of those four years.
Right away, however, Perry was impressed with what he saw from the first time that he watched the girls in open gym.
“The talent level, in general,” Perry said of the impressive qualities about the program. “The girls have a lot of different talents that they bring to the table and have a lot of different heights and reaches. The speed and the reaches have been the most impressive things for me.”
Even though Wheelersburg loses eight seniors from a group that posted the aforementioned 20-5 mark and went unblemished in SOC I play with a 14-0 record, Perry likes what he has available at his disposal, especially from a defensive standpoint. Ellie Ruby, a two-year team captain who has been stellar in basketball and track in addition to volleyball, is back after collecting team-highs in digs (443) and service receptions (265) to go along with 37 aces, while Mia Darnell, another standout student-athlete, adds 179 service receptions, 176 digs, and 12 aces to form a formidable backline chalk-full of experience and success.
“Coming in and watching Ellie Ruby, who has been a team captain for the volleyball program over the past two seasons and is coming back for us as a defensive player at the libero position, and Mia Darnell, who is a defensive setter, has been great. They are both sweethearts and have been totally accepting of a new coach coming in. Being seniors that had to be disappointing losing their coach. However, they’ve been fantastic. When you come in as a coach and try to start turning a program your way, it helps when most all of your experience comes from the defense. I consider myself more of a defensive coach anyway, so it is ideal.”
With an opportunity to build his own program and make his own mark at Wheelersburg, Perry’s simple goal is to not only maintain the success that the Pirates have had in the past, but grow upon it in the future.
“I have tons of respect for Kendra (Coleman),” Perry said. “My main goal is to maintain the upward trajectory of this program. If I can maintain it, keep it where it’s at, and possibly improve on it, get it to the next level, and win a district or a regional championship, that’d be great. That’s my goal. Just try to work to improve it.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7