By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Taking over for a program a year removed from back-to-back state championships can be a daunting task.
But Don Wood is more than ready for the challenge.
Wood was introduced recently as the new head varsity coach of the Miami East Viking volleyball team — a team that won Division III state titles in 2011 and ‘12, three straight district titles and was elminated in the regional semifinal round this season by eventual state champion Versailles.
“It’s obviously going to be a challenge,” Wood said. “(Former coach) John (Cash) has done a great job with the program. It’s always difficult to step in with a new team that has had a lot of success.”
But Wood is pretty familiar with success, too.
He was an assistant coach with Yoon Ha at Fenwick when the Falcons won a state championship, he was head varsity coach at Carroll High School for five years and he also coaches JO volleyball in the offseason. Most recently, Wood was an assistant at Centerville High School last season — and in the past, he was Ha’s assistant at Troy High School.
With the Vikings graduating five key players at the end of the fall — and three others after last season — Wood is also stepping into what will be an untested Viking lineup.
“They graduated five key players at the end of the season, but we’re still going to be a good team with a lot of talented incoming freshmen and a good system John’s developed to make the program work well,” Wood said. “We have good freshmen coming in and a lot of talented players that were already there. I’ve seen a lot of the players that are coming up in the program, and we’re definitely not going to be lacking for talent.”
The trick, Wood said, will be to put it all together.
“We’ve got talented players, but they haven’t really had to do it together yet,” he said. “We’ll have to see how they mesh together. These seniors haven’t had to step up and show they can lead the team yet, but they’ll have to now. As with any new team, I’m coming in expecting them to work hard and expecting to see leadership out of the seniors.”
The fact that the assistant coaches under Wood will still be the same will help ease the transition, also, and Cash — who currently is working as an assistant with the Beavercreek High School boys volleyball team — won’t be far away, either.
“We’re retaining the staff that worked with John, and he will be staying on as a volunteer assistant coach, as well. So really, we’re just adding a coach,” Wood said. “With him having two daughters playing in college, he wanted to be able to watch them play, so his role will be more scouting and gameplanning than day-to-day in the gym. This will give him the time to do what he needs to do, while also letting us keep his expertise and knowledge.”
And the program’s expectations won’t be changing, either.
“The goal is going to be the same it is every year — win a state title,” Wood said. “We won’t know how realistic that is until we get into the gym, though. But we’re going to do that with open gyms starting next week and get going pretty fast.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 440-5251 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.