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Watch now: St. Teresa's Brad Dalton is Macon County Volleyball Coach of the Year

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ST Teresa at Central AM volleyball gallery 2 032521.JPG

ST. Teresa at Central A&M volleyball on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

DECATUR — After consecutive trips to the state volleyball tournament resulting in a Class 1A third-place finish in 2018-19 and a 2A championship in 2019-20, it was likely that the Bulldogs 2020-21 season, no matter how or when it was eventually played, was likely going to be a letdown.

Brad Dalton 1 07021.JPG

St. Teresa’s Brad Dalton is the Macon County Volleyball Coach of the Year and Valerie Nutakor is the Macon County Volleyball Player of the Year.

When it was announced by the IHSA that volleyball and the other spring sports would not have a postseason, taking away a chance for the Bulldogs to repeat as champions, St. Teresa head coach Brad Dalton experienced something new in his time as St. Teresa's coach: Struggling to keep his players motivated.

"It was a trying year. It is hard to motivate kids when you have nothing to play for, especially after you went back-to-back to state appearances. Then you are told that there is no state and it is a challenge to keep the kids motivated," Dalton said. "It was a shortened season but it was still disappointing with how the year went. We were playing really good volleyball at the end. We would have had a shot and we would have been in the conversation (for a state title) for sure." 

The Bulldogs jammed as many games as they could into the short season and finished 20-3, winning the Central Illinois Conference title with a 7-0 record. For the third straight year, Dalton is the Herald & Review's Macon County Volleyball Coach of the Year. 

Question: As you think about the season, what games stand out to you?

Dalton: "We made 20 errors in a set and were able to come back and beat Maroa. We played pretty good against Mount Zion, so we did well against our rivalry teams. Against Champaign Central, who has a player going to Michigan and some six-foot kids playing Division I, they beat us 25-8 in the first set. That was our first test to see if we were any good or not and we came back and beat them in three sets."

Q: Outside hitter Valerie Nutakor had a very strong season (247 kills) and is the Macon County Player of the Year. How did she improve her game this season? 

Dalton: "Val's game was very well rounded. She took her defense to another level. Losing Abby Robinson from the state championship team ... Abby's biggest asset was her defense and the way Val played, we didn't miss it a lot. She hits for a high percentage and she doesn't make errors. If we can get her enough attempts and not wear her out, she'll have a lot of opportunities next season." 

Q: One big offensive weapon graduating was Caleigh Craft (183 kills, 33 aces, 207 digs). How will she be missed? 

Dalton: "Caleigh is a big hole to fill and she had a good season. She did what I thought she would and dominated some matches. From the time I got here to the time she left, she was one of the most improved kids in the state. She changed her position when I got here and she worked on it through the postseasons. She was really good at the end."

Q: Summer practices have recently begun again for next season. What are your goals for those sessions after not having summer practices last season? 

Dalton: "It is still laid back. It is going to be more like the first year I was here. We are going to change some things up and probably learn some new nuances to our offenses. We are athletic. It is going to be a feel-it-out process and I think we will get better as the season goes along. We will see what we've got at the end. I don't feel like there will be a huge let down because I think we will be good at the end."


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

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