DOUGLAS — A new era of volleyball is about to begin at Douglas High School.
Ashley Ellis was approved as the Lady Bulldogs new volleyball coach at a special Douglas Unified School District board meeting on Sept. 9. She quickly selected two new assistant coaches who have volleyball experience and are now awaiting board approval.
For the past year Ellis has been the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at DHS working alongside Brita Kimble.
“I grew up in Tucson. I graduated from CDO High School where I played volleyball, basketball and ran track,” the new volleyball coach said. “After graduating I went to Fort Lewis College for a semester; tore a bunch of stuff in my shoulder and moved home. Paying out of state tuition without my athletic scholarship was not an option.”
“I took a semester off (from) school and then attended the University of Arizona in 2013. I was there for three years, graduating with a degree in animal science with equine focus.”
Not wanting to be far from volleyball, Ellis did some coaching on the side as an assistant coach with Ironwood Ridge while also coaching a club team she used to play for when she was in high school.
“I was still in the volleyball scene but wasn’t able to make it full-time work,” she said. “I moved down to Douglas with the intent of going to nursing school when the (agriculture) teaching position opened. With my background, it was a perfect fit. The day after I got hired here I got my acceptance letter for nursing school.”
Ellis decided not to attend nursing school and states she feels she made the right choice accepting the teaching position at DHS which little did she know at the time, would eventually lead her back into volleyball.
When Carlos Chavez announced he was stepping down after 10 years as head coach of the volleyball program at DHS, Ellis was approached by athletic director Angel Ortega who knew of her athletic background and encouraged her to apply for the position.
“I’m excited to be the new volleyball coach here,” Ellis said. “I can’t wait to start working with these girls.”
Ellis has met (remotely) with her returning seniors and has begun building a relationship with them.
“I’ve developed a coaching staff and am continuing to work hand in hand with the other sports to come up with the best plan possible to give these kids all the opportunities they need and deserve,” she said. “I’ve hired Dave Docto and Maria Trinta. Both are pending board approval however.”
Docto is a physical education teacher at Paul Huber Middle School and according to Lewis, has an extensive coaching and playing background in volleyball in the Philippines.
“He worked with the largest university in the Philippines for quite some time as their strength and conditioning lead for their basketball and volleyball programs,” Lewis said.
Trinta is a ESS teacher at DHS who played volleyball in Puerto Rico.
“The three of us together are strong minded and have the same goals for the whole program,” Ellis added. “While we may have three separate teams, we are all Douglas volleyball.”
Ellis understands the limitations that are put on her volleyball team the first several weeks they are able to practice which for them begins Sept. 19 on the DHS tennis courts.
“We decided the tennis courts would be the best option to give the girls the illusion of still being on the court,” she said. “The dimensions of the tennis court are not perfect but we’re not working in a perfect situation right now anyways. We’re going to use the courts to begin our conditioning, footwork and teamwork obviously using the pod approach while we’re still in phase one — which is basically no contact, no shared equipment. I for one, will not be using balls at all for the first few weeks. We’re also going to have staggered start times.”
Ellis would like to see her team build a tradition of excellence and maximize their opportunities.
“The program is going to have a new face now with a new coaching staff,” she said. “I would like to build us into a program, not just the volleyball team. We can’t maximize our opportunities if they are not students first.”
No official schedule has been set for volleyball and while that is frustrating the coach feels just the fact the athletes are able to get out and interact with each other will be a good thing.
“At the very least they will be competing against each other,” she said. “Yes, it’s frustrating we don’t have a season nailed down or even guaranteed but like I said, we’re going to maximize on opportunities.”
Douglas ended last year winning their last six matches going 10-8 overall, 7-4 in conference and 6-4 in region, good enough for third place in the Gila Region but not good enough for a state playoff spot unfortunately. The Lady Bulldogs gave conference champion Walden Grove its lone conference loss last year, a 3-0 sweep in Douglas. Several key players from that team are returning this year among those being seniors Isabel Tanabe, Victoria Valenzuela, Arianna Daniel-Stuppi, Uliani Del Rio, Karyeme Gallardo and Andrea Maytorena.
“I have a lot of players who, more than anything, just want to be back on the court,” Ellis said. “That’s where they feel at home and they succeed. I was able to catch just a couple of matches last year and really haven’t seen these girls play. The few that I went to were just as a spectator who missed the sport. I see their potential but don’t know their true skill set and what needs to be honed in on or expanded upon.”
Ellis states she also has a couple of players who have expressed their desire to take their skills to the next level and she is willing to do all that she can to help them get there.
“I’m anxious, excited, nervous,” she said. “All those emotions I had as an athlete I still have just now as the head coach of a program. Even without a true schedule on the table right now I’m excited about the opportunities that are on the table for us to build and look forward to in the coming years.”