FARMER CITY – Blue Ridge High School volleyball coach Evan Miles said he learned one thing very quickly when he entered the head coaching ranks in 2007.
“You’ve got to be all-in. You can’t do it halfway,” Miles said. “You’re either committed or you’re not.”
As an example, he points to the 30- to 45-minute practices he holds on game days.
“I know sometimes that tires the girls out, but at the end of the season we’re in shape and we get more reps during the season. So usually our skill set is at a good point there.”
That dedication helped earn him the 300th win of his volleyball coaching career last week, a 25-22, 23-25, 25-11 victory over Armstrong-Potomac at home on April 21.
He passed along the credit to supportive staff, parents and athletes throughout the years, in addition to his “three impactful seniors” this season, which saw the Knights go 11-4 overall.
“Nadia (Beadle) is our go-to hitter and one of our two primary passers. Jenna Mozingo transitioned after her sophomore year at libero. She covers corners, is good in the back row digging balls, is fast twitch. That’s what you need is a girl with grit back there.
“Every year I have a girl or two play two or three years of JV and finally carve out a role at varsity, and that was Katie Bowns this year. She led us in blocks, is very coachable and is a hard worker.”
After the Knights started the season 7-1, it was all but assured that Miles would hit 300 wins by the end of the season, as he needed just three more. But canceled games due to COVID-19 protocols – then struggling to get the team groove back after two weeks off – cut it close.
He ended up reaching the milestone in the second-to-last contest of the 2021 season.
Miles earned his first 28 wins at Kewanee High School and the remainder at Blue Ridge, where he has led the Knights to seven straight regional crowns. Post-season play was canceled this year, but the coach thinks this team could have made it eight in a row.
“I thought we had a good chance. We were in a really good spot. I feel like if this was a normal year, we’d have a good chance to go for a regional if we had been afforded that opportunity.”
Miles, who grew up in the Galva area playing several sports – baseball was his favorite – was also an assistant girls basketball coach early in his career. He was a junior varsity volleyball coach at Stark County in 2003-04, where he was “willing to learn, get my feet wet.”
While getting his teaching certificate through Western Illinois University, he helped train and learn from teams at the university, leading to the opportunity to start his volleyball coaching career at the varsity level in 2007-08.
When he started, did the BRHS coach see getting to 300 wins?
“I’ve just been blessed with some kids with some natural talent. A few kids have bettered themselves with club (volleyball), and that’s what good programs do. They have club players,” Miles said. “We’ve cultivated that talent, and put a winning product together.”
He said the biggest struggle these days is keeping numbers up, especially at a small school like Blue Ridge, which has an enrollment of about 230.
“In a small school, there’s going to ebbs and flows throughout the years,” added Miles.
There’s no rest for the Knight coach this year, who transitions directly into coaching track and field. He is also a physical education teacher and the high school athletic director.
Last week of the season
The Lady Knights (11-4) won all three of its outings last week, including an exciting win over Armstrong-Potomac on April 21, where Blue Ridge halted A-P’s six-game winning streak.
Blue Ridge ended the season with four straight wins.