This week the Coaches Corner spotlight focuses on one of the county’s longest tenured and most successful volleyball coaches in Pierce’s Kim Travis, who over 11 seasons on the bench has shaped the Bears not only into a perennial contender in the Northern Section, but also a highly competitive entity across the state and beyond.
Travis, the 2018 Northern Section Coach of the Year, has a long list of accomplishments to her credit starting with a cumulative record of 211-109, three consecutive Sacramento Valley League titles, a section championship and a run into the semifinal round of the CIF State tournament, to name a few.
Yet, it’s not the wins and losses that Travis values most, but rather the lasting relationships and commitment to program from her former players that she sees as the most impactful part of her coaching experience.
“Relationships that are established last even after you leave the Pierce program,” said Travis, who added that no less than six of her former players have returned to help coach, either at Pierce or with Travis’s Dynamix club team, including Alison (Ornbaun) Crandall, Madison (Leighty) Mitchell, Ellen Hansen, Yasmin Garcia, Morgan Diaz, Mariah Diaz, and Molly Doherty.
Moreover, those who graduate continue to support the program by attending games, fundraising events, or offering encouragement via text when the Lady Bears take the court in big games, all of which are testament to the family culture that Travis has created at Pierce.
Something else Travis has prided herself on is teaching a passion for the sport, using the phrase “Play it once, love it forever” to describe what she has tried to achieve.
And she has done precisely that, as 11 Bears including Crandall, Mitchell, Hansen, Garcia, Mariah Diaz, Cora Cherry, Emily Kuykendal, Lauren Ornbaun, Callie Muniz and Alexis Dorantes all continued to play at the collegiate level.
Choosing a team amongst all her triumphs was difficult, but Travis ultimately selected her 2015 squad as the most memorable due to its continued development and ability to actualize what it meant to be Lady Bear volleyball players.
“The best team isn’t the team with the best players, but the team that plays best together. This group had issues in the early years, and although it wasn’t easy, they bought into the system and the entire program began to grow. They had spunk, they had heart, and they had a genuine love and respect for each other. That didn’t mean that they got along all the time, but when they walked through those gym doors everything was left outside and they competed,” Travis said.
Such sentiment was echoed by Riley Voorhees, one of two senior captains in 2015, who said, “Kim lives by the motto ‘we is greater than me,’ and it is the foundation of any volleyball program she is involved in. She taught us the importance of team work and having each other’s backs.”
Voorhees, the Bears’ leader at the net with 174 kills and 55 blocks was joined by Cherry, a junior, who tallied 104 kills to go along with 61 blocks and senior Kristina Godinez who recorded an additional 115 kills.
Directing the offense was co-captain Molly Doherty who handed out 577 assists, which equated to an 8.1 per set average, and was second in the Northern Section that season.
While the front line was imposing to be sure, the back row was stellar led by Carissa Cabral who made 473 digs, 356 service receptions, and for good measure served 56 aces.
Julia Dye, Lauren Ornbaun, Jessica Godinez and Ellie Geyer also made significant contributions to the defensive effort as the Bears went undefeated in the Sacramento Valley League and finished the season 22-10.
Geyer, a junior at the time, attributes much of the Bears’ success in 2015 to Travis’s effort, recalling the trip to the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona that she believes was a defining moment that brought the team together in a way that transcended the season.
“Although we basically lost every game [in Arizona] and got a mouth-whooping from Kim afterwards, we bonded and made memories like no other and learned from out mistakes. Our team was so resilient, and we were good at picking each other up during the bad times and getting the job done. Then after the last game [of the year] where we fell short to Sutter and going to the sections, the tears were heavy for everyone. I think we were more upset that our season and all the memories we had made had finally come to an end, rather than being upset about the actual loss,” Geyer said.
It is with this group that Travis feels groundwork for Pierce volleyball to reach another level was laid, and for that she feels a special connection.
“The love that I have for this team cannot be summed up in a mere article. They are the epitome of what the foundation of Pierce volleyball was built upon,” said Travis.
With 2020 set to be her final season both Voorhees and Geyer added a personal tribute to their former coach with Voorhees saying, “Kim came into my life when I needed her the most and I wouldn’t the person I am today without Kim Travis and her volleyball program” while Geyer added that Travis “was absolutely the best coach and mentor I ever had growing up. She taught me valuable life lessons that not only helped me become a better teammate/volleyball player, but also prepared me to be a just and hardworking person off the court. I will be forever grateful for the influence she had in my life.”
Thus, whoever the next Bear coach is will with out question have big shoes to fill, but that individual should also be secure in the fact that the network of volleyball family, which is part of Travis’s legacy, will be there to help in anyway possible. ♣