Friday, August 23, 2019

ICC Volleyball ushers in the Tracy Heffren Era with a Win

ICC Volleyball ushers in the Tracy Heffren Era with a Win, Metamora Herald
New ICC Head Volleyball Coach Tracy Heffren directs the team during Thursday night's home and season opener against Carl Sandburg, a match that the Cougars went on to win, three sets to none. PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
East Peoria, Ill. - Thursday night, there was a new face pacing the volleyball sideline at Lorene Ramsey Gym for the first time in nearly three decades.

Tracy Heffren, the former Head Volleyball Coach at Eureka High School, was recently named the successor for Hall of Fame coach Sue Sinclair, who retired, effective back on June 30th.

Any new job can bring a lot of stress or a lack of sleep, but Coach Heffren's daughter, Courtney, a freshman on the team, says that wasn't a concern, in fact, saying that "she was pretty calm", citing the scrimmage the team had the week prior.

The match, and really all three sets, started off quite well for the new-look Cougars. Outside of a blemish here and there, momentum would be a straight shot on the side of the hosts. Yet, the visiting Carl Sandburg Chargers would find a way to creep back into the match each time, definitely making it interesting.

Despite the Chargers and Cougars engaging in what ended up being at least moderately close sets, it still ended up being a three-set sweep for ICC.

The Chargers' 'comeback' efforts were something that stuck out, and Coach Heffren acknowledges that it was brought up multiple times.

"That was one thing we talked about in timeouts. We played strong for awhile, then we just let them in a little bit. We need to continue playing strong the whole way through."

Even though Carl Sandburg was able to pull within a manageable deficit, the Cougars eventually breezed through their first official match of the new campaign, winning in three, 25-22, 25-19, and 25-18.

It's always good to get the opener in, and that's something that Coach Heffren believes was eased at least somewhat by some factors she was aware of coming in.

"I knew going into this season that this team was going to be a good team to coach. Their personalities, the sophomores coming back, the freshmen coming in. It's just gelled really well."

The Cougars also have set a team goal for the season - get to Nationals. They will certainly face some quality competition along the way, and hopefully come post-season time, the Cougars will be a truly battle tested program.

A great match was also viewed by a great crowd, as there weren't many spots open in the stands. That's something that one would hope carries over from the home opener.

Sophomore Ciela Tamayo says that this needs to be routine.

"This is going to be an intense season. We've already started out on top, so we plan on continuing to do it this way."

The large attendance is something that can also reflect team performance, and it's something Courtney Heffren really appreciates.

"I love playing in front of big crowds, and I know everyone else does too. Bringing everyone to the games, it means a lot."

Heffren says that as good as Thursday's crowd was, it shouldn't stop there, hoping for a potential full house with standing room only-type capacity.

"Once we have our next home game, hopefully even more people will come out."

Now, it's of course encouraged to come out and support the Cougars at all home matches. However, the next one isn't until Friday, September 13th. That's three weeks from the writing of this story. It's a long stretch away from home, but Coach Heffren says that you can still pull some positives from the stretch.

"Being on the road, it gives you a little more bonding time with the team because you are together. Spending the night at tournaments and such."

Ciela Tamayo added that although it may seem like a negative to not be home for so long, the team actually is waiting for these types of situations.

"Basically, during the season, we're always on the road. Even though we're not at home, we're all looking forward to it."

All this bonding, pieced together with a new head coach getting to know her team, it's something that a daughter can really appreciate seeing her mom at the helm in a new setting.

"She definitely deserves it," Courtney Heffren said. "and she's a great coach. I'm not just saying that because she's my mom, but she can keep her poise and I think she'll do really well here."

As mentioned, the Cougars are at various locations over the next 21 days until they return to Ramsey Gym on September 13th for a triangular with Jefferson College and Lincoln Trail. The schedule for that is below.

Friday, September 13th (All matches Lorene Ramsey Gymnasium)
3pm - ICC Cougars vs. Jefferson College
5pm - Jefferson College vs. Lincoln Trail
7pm - ICC Cougars vs. Lincoln Trail

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