By Rubin E. Grant
For eight seemingly long years, Kellye Bowen had been trying to reach the pinnacle with her Spain Park volleyball team.
She finally got there this fall, leading the Jaguars to a 47-4 record and the Class 7A championship, the first in school history.
She was selected the 2021 OTM Volleyball Coach of the Year unanimously in a vote of Over the Mountain coaches.
“It’s very humbling after the experiences I’ve had over the last eight seasons,” Bowen said. “To God be the glory. I think highly of my coaching peers, and for them to pick me makes it special. They have seen me go through some tough times.”
Bowen pointed to her first season, when the Jags had a 9-22 record, and she questioned whether she had made the right decision to take the job. But she steadily built the Jags into a contender, finishing as Class 7A runners-up in 2020 to a great Hoover team.
The Jags were ranked No. 1 in the preseason this year and played like it throughout the season, winning its own HeffStrong Tournament, the Juanita Boddie Tournament and the Margaret Blalock Tournament.
They were especially dominant in the postseason, dropping only one set and capping their championship season with a 3-0 sweep (26-24, 25-23, 25-23) of perennial powerhouse McGill-Toolen in the Class 7A final. Their 47 wins set a school record.
“We did what we set out to do,” Bowen said right after claiming the title. “I knew if we played our best game, nobody could beat us, and we proved that.”
A few weeks after winning the crown, she said, “I’ve been through the lowest of lows, thinking, do I really want this job. We finally got it done. The word I have used is perseverance.”
Bowen credited her players, including All-American Audrey Rothman, the 2021 OTM Player of the Year, for her finally reaching the pinnacle as a coach.
“We never talked about winning a state championship,” Bowen said. “We talked about being a good teammate and having love for each other and playing to our standards.
“They bought in to what we were doing. They wanted success for one another and wanted to be the best team we could be.”