O’Quinn ready to lead Pelham volleyball

She thought it was over. The former Pelham junior varsity volleyball coach turned in her resignation papers, thinking she had coached her last game for the school.

“I thought I was done,” said Haven O’Quinn, Pelham’s newest varsity volleyball coach.

One phone call, however, changed everything.

“I got a call in late May,” O’Quinn said.

On the other end of the phone was Kim Kiel, assistant athletic director for the Panthers. Kiel informed O’Quinn that the team’s head coach, Tien Le, was leaving to take the same position at Briarwood Christian. Kiel wanted O’Quinn to fill the position.

“I took it,” O’Quinn said.

After nearly three months on the job, O’Quinn is busy preparing her team for the season opener against St. Paul’s Episcopal on Aug. 19. The transition from the junior varsity level to coaching the varsity team, O’Quinn said, has come with excitement.

“(As the varsity coach) you get to do exactly what you want to do,” O’Quinn said. “You don’t have to sit back and watch the girls anymore. I enjoy the faster-paced game.”

The final decision to accept the job, O’Quinn said, didn’t come without much deliberation. “I talked to my husband for a few days,” O’Quinn said.

O’Quinn teaches first graders at an elementary school in the Pelham area during the day. Under Le, the varsity team started practice early in the afternoon, well before O’Quinn’s job at the elementary school ended.

With such a tight schedule, O’Quinn wasn’t going to be able to take the job without a change in the practice schedule. “I asked Coach Kiel if we could start practice at 4 p.m.,” O’Quinn said. “I have to fulfill my obligations (at the elementary school) first.”

Kiel obliged, and O’Quinn was happy to accept the job. “There’s no way to turn that down,” O’Quinn said.

As for the expectations that come with being the head coach for what O’Quinn calls “a volleyball dynasty,” the coach knows they come with the territory. “That’s usually the first thing out of everybody’s mouths — Is the tradition going to continue?” O’Quinn said. “I’ve told the girls from the beginning that we can’t win being superstars. We have to play as a team.”

O’Quinn is following in the footsteps of one of the most acclaimed high school volleyball coaches in Alabama in Tammy Richardson, who spent 26 years at the helm for the Panthers before retiring after the 2006 season. Richardson came out of retirement in 2009 to take the head coaching position at Oak Mountain, an area foe of the Panthers.

The shoes left to fill by Richardson were hardly small.

The Hall of Fame coach ranks third all-time in victories in the state with more than 1,100. Richardson led the Panthers to 17 state tournaments, reaching the finals four times while capturing the Class 6A state title in 1993 and 1997.Richardson also played an integral part in bringing the Elite Eight state tournament to Pelham.

O’Quinn is aware of the work done by her predecessors. However, she isn’t interested in making history. The new coach just wants to keep the program’s momentum going.

“We want to keep the tradition (at Pelham),” O’Quinn said. “We still want Pelham to be a solid volleyball program. It’s been a dynasty.”