With the exit of top-notch volleyball coach Greg Thompson, Athletic Director Doug Connelly had some big shoes to fill. Thompson, who was the principal of Crossroads Alternative School, has now been named as a new Assistant Principal at Morgan County High School. Connelly’s search led him to a first-year coach from Oconee County; Olivia Daniell. She will be heading up the program for the 2018-19 school year to fill the void left by Thompson. The volleyball team has excelled the past several seasons with their first-ever Area Championship in 2016 and a runner-up Area finish a year ago.
Coach Daniell hails from the Cincinnati area where she started playing volleyball as a sixth grader before moving to Watkinsville. She attended Westminster Christian Academy and was a four-year varsity player there as well as a three-year club volleyball player. The team made the Final Four her senior year and hung their first-ever volleyball banner in the gym that season.
Upon graduation, the 22-year-old coached volleyball at both the Oconee Recreation Department for two years and with Metro Club Volleyball this past season.
The recent UGA graduate (May 4) has a dual teaching certificate in Special Education and middle grades math. She will be using that degree to teach math at Morgan County Middle School this coming year. Daniell said, “Coaching was kind of an afterthought for me. I always knew that I wanted to coach, but I didn’t want to get a teaching job based on my coaching ability. Teaching is my primary passion. I went into Special Education because I felt that the kids in those areas deserved the very best teachers. I’m very qualified and passionate about that.”
The first-year teacher and coach has been married to her high school sweetheart, Zach Daniell, for the past two and a half years. She laughed when she said, “We have a dog, but no kids yet. That’s enough for now. We’re not in a hurry at our age.”
Daniell said that the things that appealed to her about Morgan County were first, they have a great reputation with the UGA Education department. She also mentioned that she had coached some of the Morgan volleyball players at Metro Club. “Morgan sounded like a place I wanted to be a part of. I had the opportunity to meet the (Alan) Shultz family as well as the families of Emma Silvey, Brooke Butler, and Anna Cox who were on my Club team. They were very talented and a great group of young ladies. The parents mentioned to me that there might be an opening for the volleyball job and then mentioned my name to Coach Doug Connelly. He contacted me, I went for an interview, and was officially hired on April 22,” she commented.
The MCHS volleyball team had their spring tryouts under the new head coach last week. Here’s what she said about the week.
“Tryouts went great. Everything went smoothly for me as a first-year, first-time head coach. I was impressed with the talent and attitude of the group as well as their coachability. They seemed very on board with me as the new coach and excited about the upcoming season. Anytime you come in after someone as successful and loved as Coach Thompson is, it’s not an easy thing. Those girls loved him. It will be hard to replace him.”
With the summer months looming right around the corner, Daniell has big plans for her team. They will be playing club ball, going to camp, and participating in some rigorous conditioning and practice during June and July. They will be conditioning two times per week in the morning and practicing in the afternoons those same days. Also, Daniell was excited to announce that she plans on taking the team to their first team camp ever at Clemson University during that time. She said, “Team camp will be a good bonding experience for us right before the season starts.”
Her final comments were, “Our goal is to win the Area. We’ll have some tough competition, I’m told, with Jefferson, Jackson County, and some other quality teams to do that. I’m excited about it and I can feel it.”
School opens up for students on August 1. It won’t be long after that when the season starts with the first JV play date set for August 11. If you get a chance, welcome in the newest member of the MOCO coaching staff; Olivia Daniell. Welcome aboard.