New volleyball coach brings long experience in game

A former Willamette University volleyball player who most recently headed a Bend-area recreational volleyball organization has been named coach of the Sweet Home High School volleyball team.

High school Athletic Director Tim Porter announced that Alicia Meier will take over the program that was led for the previous five years by Debbie Danielson, who stepped down at the end of last season.

Meier, 34, is a native of Bend who played volleyball and basketball at Bend High, then went on to play volleyball at Mt. Hood Community College and Willamette. Most recently she was a club coach in Bend and president of the Bend Volleyball Association, an organization that conducts adult leagues and summer youth programs in the Bend area.

Meier’s extensive background in the sport got Sweet Home administrators’ attention, Porter said.

“The thing that made her stand out for us was her experience and understanding of the game,” he said. “Then it was just the desire to take the girls volleyball program to the next level. She’s a go-getter and I think she’ll be a good fit.”

Meier is new to the area, having moved here four months ago from Bend with her husband of eight months, Jon Meier, who is a recreation planner for the U.S. Forest Service in the Sweet Home Ranger District headquarters.

She said she has been interested in coaching high school volleyball, but never had time in Bend, where she worked as a transportation planner for a consultant. She still plans to work in that field, but “development is pretty much halted right now,”

she said.

“This was a great opportunity to find this position open and actually have time to dedicate to it.”

Meier, who competed and coached previously under her maiden name, Dyrdahl, is 5-7, but played outside hitter in high school and college. Most top players at that position tend to be 5-10 or taller.

“Height is nice, but power and confidence can go a long ways,” she said. “I could jump. When you’re shorter, you have to be a little smarter. You have to have good players in the middle and hopefully you can create one-on-one situations.”

She earned a volleyball scholarship at Mt. Hood, where she played under Terry Folen, and then attended Willamette, playing for Marlene Piper from 1996 to 1998, and graduating with a degree in environmental science.

She spent a couple of years in the West African country of Gambia with the Peace Corps, working with women’s gardening groups and teaching environmental education in schools.

“It was a great opportunity to see what was important and what opportunities we do have,” she said of that experience.

Upon returning to Bend, she has played consistently in adult leagues and coached with the Ore-gon Volleyball Academy in Bend, a club program, when her schedule permitted.

“I always wanted to do more coaching but with my schedule I couldn’t commit 100 percent,” she said. “If you expect your girls to give 100 percent and you can’t, that’s not the environment you want to create.”

She said she has been particularly active in sand volleyball in recent years, noting that the sport has become popular in Bend.

“I’ve found, as I get older, that it’s a lot more forgiving surface,” she joked.

Meier met the Sweet Home players last Thursday and said she senses some eagerness on the part of the Huskies to make strides toward the state playoffs.

“I know a lot of them have had tough times,” she said. “They’ve been in the middle of the pack, always. They’d have a couple of good games, beat Central, then fall back down.

“It’s kind of hard to tell you my goals for the season because I haven’t seen the girls play at all, but if we can just get those fundamentals built up and work on that, then we’ll have preparedness for game situations.

“If you’re confident in your skills, you’ll be able to play emotionally with confidence. It’s not something that will happen right away, but it will happen.”

She said she finds herself in a “really unique situation” as Sweet Home moves from the Val-co League to the Sky-Em.

“We’re losing Central and Philomath but we’re getting Sisters, Elmira and Cottage Grove,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough league.

“Sometimes change is scary but (the players) seem encouraged and positive about it. They’re asking when we’re going to have open gym.”

In addition to coaching and playing volleyball, Meier enjoys running, “taking our kayaks out on the lake,” sewing, painting and working in the yard.

“We are so excited to grow a garden and to be able to grow fruit trees in our backyard,” she said.