By John Burbridge email@example.com
CHARLES CITY — It was a great opportunity for Maddie Fank.
Not only did she have a chance to return to her hometown and alma mater for teaching and coaching jobs, Fank’s husband, Ryan, was offered similar positions to come to Charles City with her.
All she had to do was get past Tayler Schmidt.
“They wanted Sadie Ruzicka and I to be involved with the interview process,” said Schmidt, who with Ruzicka is among the returning seniors from the Comets’ state-qualifying volleyball team last season.
Last year’s coach, Sue Hoefer, stepped down. Fank, who as Maddie Forsyth was a former Comet volleyball player before graduating in 2010 and continuing her playing career at Wartburg College, was an immediate short-list candidate as Hoefer’s replacement.
But she had to pass the interview.
“It was the first time I ever did something like that,” Schmidt said of interviewing someone for a job. “We took some questions from the other returning players about what they would like us to ask her.
“One of the hardest questions I asked her was if she was going to go with seniority or play the best six when it comes to starters.”
Apparently, Fank gave the right answers as she is the Comets’ new coach.
“Charles City has had a tradition of volleyball success, and it’s great to be a part of that again,” said Fank, who formerly was an assistant coach at Independence and Clear Lake. “So far, everything has been great.”
Wednesday was the team’s third day of practice.
“We have been doing two-a-days,” Fank said. “In the morning, we work on positions. In the afternoon, we focus on team play … work on getting the feel of doing things together.”
The two-a-days contrast with football practices, where the state mandates only one-a-days.
“The difference is that we have air conditioning,” Fank said the Competition Gym at the middle school that held its first varsity event during last season’s volleyball home opener.
Charles City’s old high school gym doesn’t have the luxury of air conditioning.
“But that’s where I played when I was here, so it still has a special place in my heart,” Fank said. “But I love this gym and all its space.”
The Comets lost three All-Northeast Iowa Conference players from last year, but retain three with first-teamers Schmidt (outside hitter) and Sydney Loeckle (setter), and second-teamer Jodie Sindlinger (middle hitter).
“We’re starting out a little more intense this season,” said senior Loeckle, who has led the Comets in assists over the past two seasons. “We had a very good defense last year, and we need to work to get to back to that level.
“Our offense should be better.”
Like Schmidt and Ruzicka, Loeckle is a state-qualifying athlete in multiple sports. She believes this volleyball team should be able to return to Cedar Rapids (state tournament site), and advance past the first round.
“I want to get down there again for all the younger players who haven’t been down there, yet,” Lockle said.
As a Comet player, Fank almost made it down but her teams always got stopped in the regionals.
“So I’m going to try to live my state experience through these girls,” said Fank, who will teach second grade at Washington Elementary School.
Husband Ryan Fank will teach special education at Lincoln Elementary, and has stepped in to be a co-head wrestling coach at Charles City.