Chippewa volleyball learning; Rice nears coaching milestone
WARREN — In his 30-plus years of coaching Chippewa Valley volleyball, Bill Rice has never had a season like this.
Taking part in an early season tournament at Warren Cousino, the Big Reds’ varsity roster featured three freshmen and one sophomore, along with some upperclassmen.
“I’ve never done this before,” Rice said about coaching such a young squad. “So this is a learning experience for me. We’ve only had maybe one freshman at the most, ever, and that was probably 10 years ago. But we have to do what we have to do.”
The Big Reds graduated nine seniors from last season, including all of their hitters.
“We’re kind of in a transition mode,” Rice said. “It’s tough. There’s peaks and valleys, and a learning curve we have to go through. We’re passing extremely well. The young kids are doing a good job passing. It’s just that we do not have the hitting power to stay with anybody yet. It’s just going to come. The game we played just now was better than this morning and better than we played last weekend.
“It takes a long time for these kids to understand how aggressive you need to be, what you need to do on the team as far as focus,” the coach continued. “Until that happens, it’s going to be a struggle for us. But you see bright lights every now and then.”
Two bright lights so far for Rice have been junior libero Sheridan Wood and senior setter Genna Ramey. Ramey, who is setting for the first time this year, is one of five seniors on the squad, which also features three juniors along with the younger players. She said they’re “learning every day.”
“This year, we just want to build together, learn together,” Ramey. “We’ve got a lot of young girls. We want to teach them. We just want to grow together. We’re not trying to go out there and be like we were last year, because that’s not going to happen, and we know that. We know what we came in to. We’re just trying to keep up.
“We have a great back row,” she said. “We’ve got good leaders on our team. We know how to keep each other going. When we get up, we stay up. When we play our game, we play hard.
Rice nears coaching milestone
Only four coaches in MHSAA varsity volleyball history have ever reached the 1,000-win plateau, and Rice could be joining them shortly. At press time, the head of the Big Reds had recorded 995 wins since starting his career in 1980. He said reaching 1,000 would be special.
“It’s a number not to many people have ever been able to accomplish,” Rice said. “There’s a lot of heartaches with that, a lot of hours in the gym. It’s something that’s special to me.”
The retired teacher said his career goal has been to “hopefully translate” some lessons to the girls over the years.
“That’s why I got into it,” Rice said.
The coach’s lessons and passion for the game are not lost on this year’s players, as young as they are.
“We know one thing for sure, no matter what, he obviously loves volleyball,” Ramey said. “That’s one thing we respect the most about him, that obviously he loves the game or he wouldn’t be doing it this long.
“You can tell. He wouldn’t do what he does for this long if he didn’t care about the game and care about us growing and Chippewa volleyball in general — just the program. He wouldn’t do it unless he loved it as much as he did.”
The all-time coaching wins leader is Jack Magelssen, who entered this season having racked up 1,803 wins in his career at Portage Northern and Delton Kellogg.
Around the state, only 27 coaches had surpassed the 500-win mark entering this season. And just 10 other coaches have reached 800 career wins, putting Rice in exclusive company.