By Kyle Daubs
Kayla Quick isn’t much for talking about losing.
So, why would she want to start now?
After taking a year off to tend to her newborn son, Quick is back for her second year as head coach of the Green Wave. Quick’s first season featured a 14-16 season, but the team fell into last place in the Apollo Conference last year with a 2-11 record. With nine seniors back, Quick believes Mattoon can secure its first winning season since 2018.
“The talent we have on this team is outstanding,” said Quick. “We have nine seniors this year that are itching to get onto the court and show the community what they can do.”
Mattoon lost four key contributors from last year’s team, including Anna Morton, who is now playing at Lake Land College. Returning from last year is 5-foot-10 outside hitter Averie Smith, who could contend for All-Apollo, as well as senior setter Bella Smith.
“Averie is a natural leader and a fantastic athlete,” said Quick. “She is versatile and strong no matter where you put her on the court. She has nursed some injuries the past few years, but she is healthy, strong, and ready to dominate as a middle hitter this season. Bella Smith is our senior setter this year and I am looking to her to set our team up for success on the court. Her form is beautiful and she has a connection with every one of her hitters that allows her to set each one up perfectly at the net.
Senior soccer standout Faith Niebrugge returns to the lineup as an outside hitter. Cadence McDaniel joins her on the outside, as does Grace Lang. Chloe Jobe will split time between cross country and golf this season.
Quick could see an all-senior starting lineup at times, but could also mix and match. She has known this group for a long time – these seniors were freshmen at MHS when Quick began coaching.
“This group of girls has a special place in my heart,” said Quick. “They were the freshmen group I coached during my very first year with the MHS volleyball program. They have such great chemistry both on and off the court. They truly work as a team, and that alone is going to carry them so far this season.”
Mattoon will have a tough task to get back into the upper tier of the conference standings. Mahomet-Seymour, which has won two straight titles, returns an athletic group. Taylorville brings back all its starters, including two first-team selections.
However, Quick knows a thing or two about playing tough opponents. The 2012 MHS grad and All-Big 12 selection battled against powerhouses from the Big 12 Conference and won two Regional Championships in her three years of varsity experience. She’s hoping that winning mentality can carry over to the team’s approach to matches.
“When we sat down as a team and talked about our goals for the season, it became very clear to me that these girls have a fire in their hearts to leave a mark on the Mattoon High School volleyball program,” said Quick. “Our goals for this season are simply this – take each game one at a time and outwork every opponent we face. With the tremendous skill we have returning this season, coupled with the outstanding chemistry these girls have as a team, there is no doubt in my mind that they can win their regional and advance farther into the post-season competition than the MHS volleyball program has in a long time.”
Mattoon will wear masks a second year in a row after the IHSA guidelines said that all indoor sports must wear masks in practice and competition.
“Nobody loves wearing masks, especially while playing sports,” said Quick. “But, ultimately, we are here to play. Our passion has always been and will always be volleyball. If wearing a mask means that my girls get to play the sport that they love, then that’s what we are going to do.”
In the end, Quick is glad to be back on the court after a one-year absence from the sport she loves.
“Staying home with my son last year was the best choice my husband and I could have made for our family,” said Quick. “However, I never stopped missing the program, my coaching staff, and my girls. When open gyms rolled around this year, I was so eager to get back into the gym with them. I cannot thank the Mattoon school district, our athletic director Dave Vieth, and the other coaches, Lori Morton and Hayley Kroening, enough for stepping up and allowing me to spend time with my family this past year. Some days are more difficult than others, but I am beyond thrilled to be back coaching the sport that I love with the people that I love.”