The two coaches on the court at Thursday’s 3A Tri-Peaks volleyball match between Vanguard and St. Mary’s may have only recently returned to girls’ volleyball, but their resumes speak for themselves.
With more than 500 combined match wins and 10 state championships, David Barkley and Andrew Soeldner returned this season after taking time off from girls’ volleyball.
Barkley retired from coaching in January 2018, after 15 seasons and six state championships with Cheyenne Mountain. But after about a year away from the court, he was approached by a family friend about the opening at St. Mary’s.
Barkley initially said no.
“Not unless there is an opening in the English department,” Barkley told Nancy Kellick, the Pirates’ C-team coach and mother of junior middle Jillian Kellick.
Two days later, one opened up.
“It wasn’t forced, it was a real opening, so I applied,” Barkley said. “I coach for the same reason wherever I am. These are some great kids, they work so hard and I’m happy to be here. We’re having fun, we smile and we play the game.”
There was an air of excitement on the team when it was announced last spring that Barkley would be joining the coaching staff.
“I thought it was a blessing. I was so excited the bar was set really, really high and he has met that and even more,” said senior libero Sarah Connors. “He knows his stuff and really wants us to succeed. He really knows how to get us at our full potential.”
St. Mary’s came away with a 3-0 sweep over Vanguard, defeating the Coursers 25-20, 25-17, 25-12.
Seneca Hackley had seven kills for the Pirates and Jillian Kellick had five. St. Mary’s racked up 21 aces against Vanguard, led by Rachel Wilcox and Connors with seven each.
Soeldner, on the other hand, was busy coaching the Vanguard boys’ team to four straight state championships and a near-perfect 92-2 record.
“Several players from the varsity team from last year actively sought me out and wrote me a letter imploring me to come back to coach them,” Soeldner told the Gazette in Vanguard’s preseason questionnaire. “I hope to live up to their expectations.”
Soeldner, an engineer, is already bringing a different coaching technique to the girls’ team that has proven successful on the boys’ side the past four years.
“It’s a different game,” Soeldner said. “It’s been a little bit of an adjustment and getting back into gear for me.”
His coaching, which relies heavily on analytical film review, angles, velocity and energy, is so in-depth that he even wears a mic on the sideline to analyze his own coaching.
“At first they were kind of snickering a little bit, and telling me that nobody has ever explained it like that before, it makes a lot of sense,” Soeldner said. “I think they’re finding value in that, and my coaches as well.”