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Volleyball: Cahill works to get young Royals going

Woodbury first-year coach Cassie Cahill talks with sophomore libero Kayla Towne during a match against Mahtomedi. Photo by John Molene

In a season of change in the Suburban East Conference — four of the nine teams have new coaches — Woodbury's Cassie Cahill has a young Royals team hustling.

In a match Sept. 5 against a good Mahtomedi squad, Woodbury trailed 1-0 and then 2-1 in games but pushed the visitors to the brink before falling in the fifth-set tiebreaker. The Royals battled fiercely, consistently chasing down or diving for balls while many players would have given up.

That's the kind of effort the Royals are going to have to sustain if they hope to regain the successes that came when Cahill was a Woodbury player.

It wasn't all that long ago when Woodbury consistently challenged for conference and section honors. The Royals went 23-9 and then 24-5 in the 2007 and 2008 seasons and finished 16-0 in conference play those two seasons. The 2007 team qualified for the state volleyball tournament.

But after the 2011 season, the program dropped off. Last fall, the Royals suffered through a rocky 6-21-1 campaign, winning just once in SEC play.

Cahill, meanwhile, went from Woodbury to play Division II volleyball at Quincy University, graduating in 2016. She returned to Woodbury last season, coaching the sophomore volleyball B squad. This year she was handed the reins of the varsity team.

It's a young team, with one senior on varsity. Four sophomores and three juniors start, meaning the Royals are mostly building for the future this fall.

Asked the key to recapturing Woodbury's volleyball prowess, Cahill had an answer which was easily understood, but somewhat harder to execute.

"Commitment, from the kids" explained Cahill. "I'm committed, my staff's committed. I just need commitment back; I think is my biggest thing."

Woodbury's netters were all over the emotional map in a matchup against visiting Mahtomedi. The visitors won the match in five games, 20-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-23 and 15-9.

When the Royals were up, they were really up. When they were down, they were down.

Watching it all from the bench was a calm and collected first-year coach.

"Effort across the board was pretty good," said Cahill. "But our biggest downside is that we're so up-and-down. We have our highs, and we have these crazy lows that just kind of kill us.

"That's kind of my goal I guess, is to keep them even," Cahill added. "And me yelling at them isn't going to do anything."

Cahill is also working to fine-tune the volleyball skills of the Royals.

"One thing we're really pushing on them is to be process-based," Cahill said. "We have this process for like on our serve receive. We work on spacing, and we work on movement and flow, and we work on technical skills and work on passing and holding and being balanced with your weight when you're passing. We really harp on that."

Cahill is also enjoying coaching her younger sister, Courtney, this season.

"I love that," Cahill said. "I actually find myself not speaking to her as much as I'm coaching other kids. But, like she knows when I talk to her, she gives me a look, 'Oh, God, I did something wrong.'"

Courtney Cahill is a 6-foot tall sophomore setter for the Royals, and she also said she's enjoying being coached by her older sister.

"I love it because I love to be pushed," said Courtney. "And she's going to push me to a different standard."

And that, in a nutshell, is coach Cahill's goal for all of the Royals this season: To push them to a higher standard.