MT. VERNON – A new volleyball coach will be in charge of the Mt. Vernon program in 2017.
A day before practice was to begin, Angie Cheatham left to accept a teaching position at Woodlawn Grade School.
Freshman coach Brooke (Moore) Poninski has been tapped to replace Cheatham as the varsity head coach. Right now, Poninski is the interim coach and will be the volleyball coach pending board approval.
“When things need to be done they just have to be done,” said Poninski. “We’re very optimistic and very excited. We’re looking forward to it.”
Poninski – who recently married former Rams’ baseball player Hayden Poninski – is a 2012 graduate at Mt. Vernon. She attended two years at Rend Lake College then played volleyball her final two years of eligibility at McKendree University.
Sara Rennie will stick around and continue to coach the jayvee, while Lauren Keeler will coach the freshmen team.
“I’m optimistic and look forward to it,” said Poninski. “I know I have what it takes with the knowledge of the game. We’ll see how everything else follows. It did just fall in my lap, but it’s something I need to do, especially for the season. It will be challenging, but really fun too.
“I love the program. Changing of coaches isn’t something that’s new at Mt. Vernon. The one benefit that I had when I was playing here, that’s exactly what happened. I had a different coach every year I played. Now, it’s unfortunate that these girls are having to experience the same thing. I think it’s also reassuring that I have been in their shoes.”
Poninski says it wasn’t in her immediate future place to coach varsity volleyball.
“It was never anything I had in mind,” said Poninski. “Coaching, for sure. I love coaching volleyball. I love kids and have a heart for volleyball. It’s fun to see my love for both children and volleyball come into play.”
Poninski has one year experience coaching freshman volleyball but says that even going back to when she was in high school she would help coach at various levels especially in junior high.
“I’m sure people are a little concerned with me being so young,” said Poninski. “It looks like I was thrown into it because they didn’t have anyone else to do it. That is sort of how it looks like, but fortunately for us, I do know what I am doing. I’m going to continue to learn and grown and step into new roles.”
Poninski says that the same things apply to coaching at the freshmen level as they are on the varsity squad. She says, when it comes right down to it, there’s no real difference in the two.
“It is exactly the same,” said Poninski. “The trick to coaching, and especially girls, is you have to get them consistent and you have to keep them accountable. That makes a huge difference when you’re trying to play this game.
“So far they seem open to the idea. There’s room for growth and they’re open and excited to those. I’m very blessed to get that out of them.”
Although their coaching styles may be different, Poninski says that she is very similar in coaching philosophy with coach Cheatham.
“Cheatham and I are very like-minded,” said Poninski. “When she ran the program, what we were doing as freshmen were what we were doing at jayvee and varsity. It’s all pretty much the same.
“Naturally, our coaching styles are different. There’s a hole now that Angie’s gone. There’s no doubt about it. But it’s not a detrimental loss. We’re moving along because we knew it was what Angie needed to do.”
Poninski says before her first team meeting she asked her players for patience and a willingness to grow from everyone.
She also added that there will be no taking-it-easy approach when it comes to the team’s expectations.
“I told them my expectations are high,” said Poninski. “They will always remain high. I’ve asked them to trust me. I’m almost 24 [years old] and I’m smaller and look younger than my girls, but I just need them to trust me that I know what I’m talking about. Everything is going to be fine.”
The first game is Aug. 24 against Webber Township at Bluford.