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Watch now: Shelbyville's Jamie Watson is the Area Volleyball Coach of the Year

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SHELBYVILLE — Shelbyville volleyball coach Jamie Watson wasn’t sure how the 2020 volleyball season was going to go.

Outside of the season delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rams team had to find an answer after standout outside hitter Kyleigh Marty graduated and moved on to play for Blackburn College. Marty was responsible for 345 kills and was as a key team leader. With no singular offensive player able to pick up all that slack, it was up Watson to find the best Rams players and put them in the right spot.

Shelbyville volleyball

Shelbyville volleyball players celebrate a point against St. Teresa. Rams coach Jamie Watson is the Area Volleyball Coach of the Year. 

"You don't know what you are going into," Watson said. "We did have eight seniors with only two of them seeing varsity time in the last year. I wasn't sure what to expect and I knew that these girls had played together for several years. They really worked hard and came out and did a great job. I was very pleased with what they showed this season and I think we surprised a lot of teams."

The Rams rattled off 12 consecutive wins to start the season and finished with a 14-2 record with a 6-1 Central Illinois Conference mark. The spring 2021 season was just Watson's second as varsity coach, but she has a long history with Rams volleyball, serving as an assistant to long-time coach Lisa Peifer and as well as coaching the junior varsity program. Watson is the Herald & Review's Area Volleyball Coach of the Year.

Question: With little time to prepare for the start of the season, how did you piece your top team together? 

Watson:  "We only had two weeks to prepare for our first match and that was something that was very unusual. You try to look and see who you want your team to be and that's a hard decision to make when you have just five practices. It was kind of like, this is who I think we are going to go with. We had eight seniors and two sophomores with varsity experience and a couple juniors that had varsity experience. This is what we are going to go with in our first match and see what happens. You have to build and see what you have to work on and make the changes that have to be made. The big thing is your team trusting in you to make the right decisions."

Q: One adjustment you made was moving senior setter Chloe Watson (Watson's daughter) to the outside more. 

Watson: "We got into a routine once the first couple of games were done and I could see where we were at. (Senior) Kya McConnell (127 assists) stepped in as my second setter and so while she was setting, Chloe (177 assists, 82 kills) would play the outside. We didn't have any really dominating attackers and so our setters needed to know where to go with the ball. I believe our defense for the most part was better than I initially thought it was going to be also."

Q: After winning a regional title last season, was it tough to not have the postseason experience this year? 

Watson: "I know our girls wanted that, to win another championship and move on to sectional play. It depends on what route we would have had to take, but I think we possibly would have won another regional championship. When you get there you hope for the best and you practice and prepare for everything but anything could happen."

Q: Which victory stands out for you this past season? 

Watson: "Beating (Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg) this year was a moment that stood out. Stew-Stras has had a great program for many years and they had a young team and they are going to be an excellent team coming up. They are always our Shelby County rivals and that was probably our biggest thing that stands out."

Q: You've made the decision to step down as coach and your assistant Meleah Brinkoetter will take over the program next season. What was your thinking about stepping away? 

Watson: "I went back and forth and back and forth. There were a lot of things that have happened in the last few years and I have a lot more going on. I do love coaching, but when in the back of your mind there are 15 things you need to be doing, it is hard to give everything that you need to give to volleyball. I enjoyed it a lot and I thought at this point I would be doing the team or justice by staying with everything else going on. The season was very stressful with COVID. 

Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten


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