Homer High School’s varsity volleyball team has a fresh face for a fresh season.
When 21-year-old Sara Pennington started looking to get involved in the community by helping out with the volleyball team, she had no idea just how important her contribution would end up being.
Hailing from Savannah, Georgia, Pennington came to Homer this year to be closer to her fiance, who is stationed here in the U.S. Coast Guard.
The pair have another year here before moving on, and Pennington said she wanted to stay busy during that time.
She contacted Homer Athletic Director Chris Perk about getting involved in volleyball. Two weeks later, she said she got an email back saying the head coaching position was open.
Last year’s coach, Erin Brege, moved back to the Midwest this year.
And so Pennington picked up where Brege left off, molding the Lady Mariners into a stronger version of themselves. At 21, she said she feels like she has an added connection to the girls, since it wasn’t that long ago that she stood where they are now.
Pennington first got into the game in middle school and continued playing through high school.
“As a kid I never wanted to do anything in front of people,” she said, explaining that as soon as a public meet or concert came up, she would quit whatever activity she was in.
Then, she discovered volleyball. Pennington fell in love with the sport, she said, and it stuck. She returned to her high school after she graduated to coach there as well.
“I didn’t want to let go of it so I decided to come back and coach,” she said.
The team, heavy last year on sophomores and juniors, could be poised for a more successful season. Brianna Hetrick, Ksenia Kuzmin and Kelsea Scott provide the senior leadership this season, for a team with five juniors and two sophomores.
Pennington said she’s told her players not to assume they’ll be staying where they are all season — she’s prepared to move players up from the junior varsity squad if necessary.
Such was the case last year with sophomore Lauren Inama, who was pulled up to be the only freshman on the varsity team by former coach Erin Brege about halfway through the season.
The Lady Mariners have a long season ahead of them after placing third in the Homer Jamboree earlier this month. Pennington said she has a good group of girls who are excited to learn and improve.
“I think it’s going pretty well,” she said of the season so far.
Pennington said she thinks the team will perform better when the players become a solid unit. A big part of any sport is players being able to trust each other, she said.
“Every team has to mesh at some point, so I think we’re just waiting to really communicate and mesh together as a team on and off the court,” Pennington said.
The Homer volleyball team will next hit the court at the Houston Tournament this Friday and Saturday, before taking on Grace Christian School and Anchorage Christian School in away games next week.
Their next home game is on Thursday, Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. against Kenai Central High School.