Homer High School graduate and former varsity volleyball player Kristie Mastre has taken on a job that no one else wanted — head coach of the volleyball team. With the beginning of fall sports falling in alignment with the end of fishing season, coaches can be hard to find. Even though Mastre is leading the team, the school is still searching for an assistant coach, said Homer High School Assistant Principal Alison “Sunny” Mall.
The 21-year-old applied for the job when she came back to Homer from Colorado, where she was living after attending Colorado Mesa University in 2013. After deciding she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study in school and leaving the university, Mastre headed home to Homer and started looking for a job.
“I started applying for everything I could find and I saw this and I was like, ‘That would be cool.’ So I tried it out and interviewed and got it pretty quickly,” Mastre said. “I knew I wanted to work with kids somehow, but I don’t want to be a teacher, so I think this will give me a really good vibe on which way I want to go with working with kids because it’s kind of the first time I’ve had the chance to work with a group like this.”
Mastre is not the only new aspect of the volleyball team this year. With only a handful of returning players, including Mary Hana Bowe, Malina Fellows, Izabelle Hagge and Elsie Smith, Mastre has an overwhelmingly young team on her hands. She is confident about the team’s strength’s however and believes that with experience, this group will grow into a winning team.
“We have a lot of strong hitters, definitely. Pretty much everyone in this gym can hit a ball and not be all over the place so I’m excited to see that. Strong passers are coming up pretty quickly too and that’s good because that’s your key component,” Mastre said. “We’re definitely struggling with serving but it is a young team like we said so it is a skill they have to learn.”
Mastre said she wants to do more community outreach and fundraisers and create a strong community culture around volleyball. She would love for the crowd at volleyball home games to be as big as basketball games are in the winter with more than just parents and friends of players in the crowd.
Bowe, a senior varsity player, said that having Mastre as a coach is going well as she can relate to the team better having recently been in high school and her experience in the sport allows her to demonstrate techniques.
“It’s a big shift to have someone younger. I think it’s a good thing, especially for the younger girls. One thing for me is I learn from watching and … Kristie played a little bit in college, she’s younger, and it’s a little bit easier for her to give examples,” Bowe said. “She just went through this so she knows what we’re going through so that’s a big thing with academics. Trying to balance things out can be hard sometimes.”
Mastre impressed the hiring committee — comprised of Mall, Principal Doug Waclawski, a coach from another sports team, and a student — with her maturity and experience. Usually a parent serves on the committee, but finishing season prevented the school from finding a parent with time to serve and a Homer High athletic coach was used instead, Mall said.
“You could tell she loved volleyball. She’s played for a year in college. She had a lot of pluses. We don’t discriminate just because you’re young,” Mall said. “We’ve had issues sometimes when we hire coaches that are 20-21 years old because they don’t have the separation from being young. But … she’s super confident.”
While attending Homer High, Mastre joined the varsity volleyball team as a freshman, said Homer High athletic director Chris Perk. As a player, she was dedicated to the sport and was inspiring to her teammates.
“It’s an ideal situation I think with our community piece. It’s important to have our athletes leave, go out into the big world, come back and then spread the knowledge that they’ve gained. I think it makes us as a community more educated. It keeps raising our level of competition as something that we look forward to. It hasn’t happened a lot here lately, but … it would be exciting to build that type of Mariner tradition.”
Mastre also worked hard in her classes and was always prepared, said Homer High teacher Dennis Welch, who had Mastre as a student in her junior year. She always had the smallest handwriting of any student he’s had in his career, he said.
“Every teacher loves seeing that because if someone leaves or comes back, obviously there was an impression made at their school,” Welch said. “It’s always cool to see former students doing stuff, but at school it’s really cool.”