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story.lead_photo.caption Kaci Posey tosses a volleyball in the Dover Middle School gymnasium as she prepares for the first day of practice as coach of the new girls volleyball team. Posey is a former volleyball player for the Arkansas Tech University Golden Suns in Russellville. - Photo by William Harvey

Kaci Posey can pretty much do no wrong this fall as the new Dover Lady Pirates volleyball coach.

It’s the first year for the district to have a team, so she and her players have a clean slate.

“It’s a new, exciting sport,” Posey said. “I’m all for them coming in and trying. Everyone’s kind of on the same page and learning it at the same level.”

The 23-year-old Russellville resident isn’t much older than some of her students. She has 80 players on the roster so far in grades seven through 12.

The job is perfect for many reasons, she said — it’s five minutes from her house, for one.

“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Dover School District,” she said.

Posey grew up in Hallsville, Texas, where she was a standout volleyball player —

all-state her junior and senior years — and also played softball and basketball. Posey said her mother, a hairdresser, was athletic in school.

“My dad worked on a farm,” Posey said, and now he manages a grocery store.

Her sister, Kayla Whatley of Hallsville, is older by four years and is a good athlete, too, Posey said. They were naturally competitive with each other growing up.

“We were glad we were four years apart so we never had to play each other,” Posey said. “Working out with her was definitely good. We would definitely push each other in workouts. During the summer, we had this thing called speed camp, just an hour of sprints, running, and everything you did was like a race. Doing that speed camp every year — it was tough. You would see who could go through the hurdles the fastest with a weighted ball, carrying stuff and trying to beat the person beside you.”

While her sister’s passion was softball, Posey fell in love with volleyball.

She received a volleyball scholarship to play with the Golden Suns at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, where she was an outside hitter and played defense. While she was at Arkansas Tech, the team won two conference championships and a conference tournament championship under coach Kristi Bayer.

Posey also coached a volleyball club team, Suns Volleyball Club, for five years. Managed in part by Bayer, it’s for girls ages 11 to 15. Posey helped them hone their athletic skills, and it gave her coaching experience.

“It’s a higher-level volleyball, getting the girls who really love it and going to play teams around the state,” she said.

Coaching a club team helped her learn how to be in charge, too, despite her young age.

“I’ve had that professional demeanor around kids; I had to be the coach,” Posey said. “I’m your coach, and that’s my main goal — to make you a better athlete.”

Posey graduated in 2015 with a degree in health and physical education.

“I knew I wanted to coach volleyball and teach,” she said. Although she’s teaching middle school PE now, she’s working toward her middle-level math certification.

Posey said she was thrilled to see an opening in the Dover School District for a volleyball coach. She and her husband, Luke, will celebrate their one-year anniversary on July 9. He is a Russellville insurance agent, and Posey said she knew she wanted to get a job in the area.

She said getting to create a program from scratch is a bonus.

Superintendent Josh Daniels said adding girls volleyball was part of the plan when the new middle school PE facility was built after patrons approved a millage increase for the project. District patrons approved a 3.2-mill property-tax increase in 2015 to fund an estimated $10.65 million project. A new middle school complex opened in August 2016.

“We knew we wanted to give another option for our female athletes,” he said. Daniels said Posey is a good fit for the new program.

“She has the experience; she comes highly touted from Tech as a good volleyball athlete,” he said. Daniels also mentioned Posey’s position as a club coach.

“She has the skills and just the disposition to build this program. We’re building it from the ground up, … so we need somebody with a good disposition that the girls would gravitate to, and we saw that in Kaci,” he said.

Daniels said the numbers of players she’s attracting are impressive for the 1,350-student district.

“It’s really big numbers. She came in right after being hired and has 80 girls out right now. They’re running summer camps in the gym, having open volleyball nights,” he said.

Posey said volleyball is building momentum in the U.S., and the fact that U.S. Olympians Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor are identifiable among the general public is testament to that.

“It says that volleyball is becoming a more popular sport; a lot more girls are getting involved in it. It’s getting more hype. People are starting to get it — just like Dover,” Posey said.

“I hate that it’s [the Olympics] only every four years, but I love watching them,” she said. “Volleyball isn’t on TV as much as other sports, but when it is on, I try to watch it. Now from a coaching standpoint, I watch it more in-depth — how they move their feet. I love watching high-level volleyball.”

The key to being a good volleyball player is “for sure, hard work; you’ve got to work on your fundamentals,” Posey said. “You’ve got to work on your verticals, athleticism, agility. It takes a lot of hard work and persistence.

“You also have to love it. If you don’t love it, you won’t put in the hard work it takes.”

Posey said she stays in shape by doing one of the workouts Bayer gave her in college. It includes “a little weightlifting, some jumping and sprinting.” She does not have a volleyball net in her backyard. “I wish,” she said.

“There are a lot of things I’m still learning, but I really do love the kids and trying to be a role model for them,” Posey said.

She added that she loves teaching: “You get to work with a lot of other teachers and people, and I love people and the team approach.”

Posey said her goal for the Dover Lady Pirates volleyball team is simple.

“My goal for this year is really just to give the girls a really good solid foundation of volleyball and their fundamentals, just really the simple things, and grow from there to more complex, more strategic volleyball — this is a pass; this is a set — and learn the rules, just the little things of volleyball,” she said.

“We are not in a conference this year. We just have an open season where we play teams during the year. We couldn’t win a state championship [next year] because we’re not in a conference. In 2018, we will be,” she said.

Then the stats go on the books.

The Dover School District doesn’t have anyone to compare her to, but Posey intends to set the bar high. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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