CARY — New Panther Creek volleyball coach Lindsey O’Connell earned her first career varsity victory in what she hopes will be her calling for many years to come.
But how many seasons the N.C. State University senior communications major continues coaching at Panther Creek may depend largely on the job market in the Triangle next spring: O’Connell graduates in May.
“I hope I can find a job and keep coaching,” O’Connell said. “I like coaching a lot, and I like this team. We’re a young group of girls, but they really click together.”
The Catamounts are now 1-1 in the young season with a sweep Thursday in a nonconference match against visiting Rolesville, a new school with only freshmen on its roster. O’Connell was able to empty her bench as Panther Creek won 25-4, 25-10 and 25-2.
O’Connell now has mundane tasks to deal with as a varsity head coach: After the match, a parent said her daughter’s name was spelled incorrectly on the JV roster. Another parent wanted to know whether he only needed to sign out his daughter from the away matches to take her home.
But the coaching fun overrides everything else, O’Connell said.
“I like coming to practice to work with the girls every day and help them get better,” she said. “I know how important it is to have a good high school coach from when I was in high school – which wasn’t so long ago. I know what it’s like to be a student-athlete, and I know what they’re going through.”
If O’Connell’s name sounds familiar to fans of the old Tri-9 Conference – now the eight-team Southwest Wake Athletic Conference – it should.
In the 2009 season as a senior at Green Hope, O’Connell was the Tri-9 Player of the Year. She went on to play her freshman year at Clemson in 2010 before deciding “it wasn’t the right fit” and returned home to enroll at N.C. State.
The decision ended her playing career, but she already had her eye on coaching. After one year as a “normal” student at N.C. State in 2011, she juggled her studies with coaching Panther Creek’s JV team in 2012. She also coached in the high school offseason at the Triangle Volleyball Club, where she once was a club sport athlete.
O’Connell’s one season coaching the JV squad resulted in a promotion after former Panther Creek varsity coach Bonnie O’Connor stepped down.
Panther Creek libero Hayden Lundahl, one of only two seniors on this year’s roster, said the returning players hoped O’Connell would get the job.
“She was well-known among us,” Lundahl said. “It wasn’t that long ago she was a great player at Green Hope and played at Clemson. She works with us with a lot of volleyball’s up-to-date drills. She’s tough on us, but she’s also fun. She doesn’t let us goof off and knows when to get serious.”