Friday, December 6, 2013
By Steve Solloway email@example.com
STANDISH - When she was Yamile Menendez, volleyball was more than her passion. It was practically her life.
Yami Nolan, left, coach of the St. Joseph’s College volleyball team, learned the game in Southern California – where the sport is truly a passion.
She was the kid from the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance, growing up in the hot-house volleyball culture of Southern California. That was more than 25 years ago.
Now she's Yami Nolan, a mother of four, a second-grade teacher in the Oxford Hills school district and the volleyball coach-on-a-mission at St. Joseph's College. The cross-country move, motherhood and a career in education have tempered her passion.
But only a little.
In her third season as St. Joseph's head coach, Nolan is determined to turn her program into a consistent winner in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. She and her players are close to making that happen. Nolan isn't satisfied by being close.
The Monks are currently 9-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference. But the 3-0 loss last Saturday to defending conference champion Rivier stung. The match was an opportunity for the team to measure itself.
"I see improvement," said Nolan earlier in the season, the day after a spirited loss to a good University of New England team, a nonconference opponent. "I have good players. I have good captains."
But so few grew up in volleyball's culture. In Maine, volleyball is a relatively new sport, especially at the high school level.
Sarah Hawkes, one of the three captains, is about 100 kills (spike shots that can't be returned) away from 1,000, a less common feat than scoring 1,000 points in basketball. She's a senior from Pownal and a Freeport High graduate. Her sister, Autumn Hawkes, was on the first Greely High volleyball team in 2002. That was about the time volleyball arrived in southern Maine as a high school sport.
Sarah Hawkes is 5-foot-10 and a middle blocker. She loves the sport. She was the first St. Joseph's volleyball player named to a conference all-star team. But she looks at Nolan and understands they are from different cultures.
Nolan was the California Junior College Player of the Year at El Camino College. She transferred to the University of California-Santa Barbara, playing in 1986 and '87. She is still listed in the Gauchos' record book as fourth in match kills with 35 against Pepperdine in 1987. She's also ranked among the all-team leaders in digs.
Twice, Nolan and the Gauchos made it to the NCAA Division I playoffs. In fact, Coach Kathy Gregory has taken UCSB to every NCAA playoff since the tournament began in 1981.
Nolan has the pedigree, the passion and the patience to lift St. Joseph's volleyball. And the humor. Her oldest child is 20. Nolan doesn't look much older. "I had her when I was 5 years old," she quipped.
Ask Nolan to measure her team with a good Division III volleyball team in California. Would the Monks win?
"Not yet," she said. But soon.
• St. Joseph's sophomore Amber Dostie and freshman Heather Eaton were named conference Women's Cross Country Runner of the Week and Rookie of the Week.
Dostie, a Bonny Eagle graduate, won her second invitational race of the season with an 18:33 time in the 2012 Raiders Invitational 5K at Rivier College. Her time broke the school women's cross country 5K record by over 30 seconds. She is the only runner in team history to record a sub-19-minute performance. The Raiders Invitational was filled with NCAA Division II participants and Dostie, who won the race by nine seconds, was the only Division III runner to finish in the top 10 overall.
Eaton (Camden Hills High) was 16th out of 101 participants,
The volleyball team has a 10-1 record and may be a contender for the NCAA tournament. Bowdoin was ranked second behind Wellesley in the Sept. 26 New England Women's Volleyball Association poll. Hillary Cederna, a Greely graduate, is a key player on the team.
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