New volleyball coach ‘loves’ Walla Walla

Andy Jobanek

The Whitman volleyball team (5-5) won their conference opener at home against George Fox University on Friday 3-2 (18-30, 30-24, 30-22, 22-30, 15-12) in front of a raucous crowd of 150, most of them extremely vocal students. The game was new Head Coach Carolyn Papineau’s first home win and first conference win in her first try.

Papineau came to Whitman after spending three seasons as head coach of the U-14 team with the Washington Volleyball Academy. Previously to that, she was head coach at Ingram High School in Seattle for five years after serving as an assistant at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., in the early ’90s.

However, the decision to come to Whitman was an easy one to make.

“I love Walla Walla,” said Papineau. “I had wanted to come to a slightly smaller community than Seattle.”

The system run here was also similar to that at the Washington Volleyball Academy, where she established solid connections with high school players that will assist her when she begins recruiting here.

Aiding her in making the transition is Assistant Coach Michael Villanueva, who was a player for Walla Walla College and most recently assistant coach for the men’s team there. Specifically, Villanueva is helping take stats of Whitman’s players during practice, which is a brand new system Papineau is implementing this year.

“It is so necessary to have someone at practice, taking the stats and interpreting them,” said
Papineau.

It doesn’t hurt that Papineau inherited a talented team, either.

“When I ran a short practice for my job interview, I could tell they were an athletic, mobile,
enthusiastic and competitive bunch of young women,” said Papineau.

Such a type of player is needed for Papineau to implement her style of coaching where the practices are close to the pace of the game. The team does this in order to make the transition into game situations an easy one.

“I’m a coach that asks my players to be both mentally and emotionally focused on the game,” said Papineau. “I’m definitely looking for competitive athletes who are willing to take some risks and play out of their comfort zone.”

So far, her team has been impressed with her ability as a coach and have responded well to her style of coaching.

“She’s really technical. She knows about the game,” said senior Leslie Compean.

“We have a lot of players with a lot of talent. [Her coaching] is helping us refine our skills,” said sophomore Alex Graves.

As a result, her players believe in the team’s potential to go far this season.

“From what I saw last year, and knowing what our team can do with this coach, I think we have a chance at winning conference,” said Graves.

Their coach echoes that sentiment.

“I’d like this team to be regular contenders for the league championship and qualifying for the NCAA tournament,” said Papineau.

However, with all the expectations going into this season, Papineau doesn’t forget that the young women on her team are students as well as players.

“My goal is always to take what kids are learning on the court and take that into their lives,” said Papineau.

And if the team keeps winning five set thrillers like they did against George Fox on Friday, then Papineau will be around long enough to see that happen.