Volleyball looks to bump out the old

Junior middle blocker Ainsley Heise tosses the ball to serve during a match. Heise led the team in blocks with 65 last season. Photo from TMN Archives

Fall sports are returning this week to Truman State University, and the women’s volleyball team is looking to return to a new normal after a recent renovation of the coaching staff.

The University hired David Gannon in July for the head coaching position, and also brought in Sam Albus in August to be the assistant coach of the team.

With a new coach at the helm, players such as fifth-year outside hitter Ellie Kaat are expressing excitement regarding the new hires.

“As a team, we are certainly excited to have coach Gannon come to our program,” Kaat said.

Gannon brings Div. I experience with him, serving stints as an assistant coach with University of Idaho and Weber State University.

This type of experience will serve the Bulldogs well, along with the fresh perspective of a new coaching staff.

“Coach Gannon is a high-energy guy with a passion for the game,” Kaat said. “He’s an offensive mind who has already revamped our attack.”

Alongside Gannon is Sam Albus, an experienced volleyball mind that has coached in Germany amongst other places.

Kaat described a new team mantra that the seniors on the team came up with for the upcoming season.

“We decided on the phrase ‘give more,’” Kaat said. “This means that our team is going to have an attitude of giving it a greater effort than our best one all season.”

Coach Gannon will be inheriting a team that was projected to finish fourth in their division in a recently published pre-season GLVC poll. 

Middle blocker Ainsley Heise finished as a top 10 statistically ranked blocker last season, after accumulating 65 blocks, leading the team.

“I think our pre-season ranking could be influenced by the look that is brought when you hire a new coaching staff,” Heise said. “A lot of teams are going to be caught off-guard when they face us.”

The middle blocker expressed excitement about returning to a full season, having played a shortened season last year because of the pandemic. 

Heise also provided praise for the new head coach, who seemingly has earned the respect of his team already.

“Gannon possesses outstanding court vision, and sees the whole court on a different level,” Heise said.

The junior middle blocker will look to continue her role as a defensive force for the Bulldogs, making for a reliable component to the team’s success.

A common message expressed by both Heise and Kaat is their passion for the game and the love they have for it.

“One of the main things I’ve always tried to focus on is having fun playing the game,” Heise said. “When I’m having fun, I play my best volleyball.”

Newly hired head coach David Gannon expressed similar excitement about the team he is inheriting this season.

The former Div. I assistant coach came upon the Truman position in a culturally shocking manner.

“When I applied for the position, I honestly had no idea what Truman State possessed in terms of history and a volleyball program,” Gannon said.

The head coach reminisced on his hiring process, retelling how the University did not contact him until a month after his initial interview.

Luckily, the Bulldogs did reach out to Gannon, and through a Zoom call with the athletics higher ups and an official visit.

 Through the deliberation of athletic director Jerry Wollmering, senior associate athletics director Kevin White and assistant athletics director Madison Peterson, Gannon was offered the position. 

“Having received that call back, it lit a flame inside of me to research Truman,” Gannon said. “I dove into the school’s history and culture regarding its academics and sports.”

Gannon recalled a quick turnaround after his hiring, stating that he was asked to attend off-season camp that was just a week away from his hire date.

Having heard this, Gannon packed everything up and made it to Kirksville on time for the first day of camp, and has since been able to officially coach his new team.

“We think that our team can be really good,” Gannon said. “We want to compete at a high level in the GLVC.”

The offensive-minded guru noted the two outside hitters of the team, Ellie Kaat and Morgan Smith, as outstanding talent for the Bulldogs’ squad this year.

On-the-court excitement was evident from Gannon, but the off-the-court process is also on the mind of the head coach.

“I’m excited to be able to recruit in the midwest,” Gannon said. “There is a lot of great volleyball talent in this region.”

Gannon then went on to lay out his humble expectations regarding his team this season.

The head coach expressed his belief in the ability of his team to respect their opponents each and every game, and to play their hardest at each stop.

“We’re going to try to change a culture that has become a bit stagnant,” Gannon said. “It won’t happen in one season, but I know we can over time.”

The Bulldogs are heading to Jackson, Tennessee this weekend for a tournament against out-of-conference opponents.

Four matches will be played by the team, who will enjoy the perks of a pre-season that they missed out on last year.

The coaching staff is changing, but the deeper change for this program will be in its culture. Fans can be excited to see what Gannon can do for this squad, on and off the court for years to come.