Consistency remains key for Bulldog program

Published 3:20 pm Saturday, November 14, 2009

During the past two seasons the Lake Mills volleyball program has achieved new heights in its history and getting to that point has started with the consistency of the program.

In the past two seasons the Bulldogs have gone 75-8 and reached the regional finals in both seasons. The 75-8 two-year mark is the best ever in school history and perhaps what’s most telling of the tradition of the program is Lake Mills had nearly an identical record this season as it did last year despite losing five senior starters.

Lake Mills head coach Jim Boehmer joked that last year he didn’t really earn his paycheck because of the talent and experience he had on the roster, but it appeared he would earn that check this season with a fresh group with little varsity experience.

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He helped guide a young group — made up of one senior starter, two juniors and two sophomores — to a 37-4 record this season. It was the second-best mark in school history behind only last year’s mark of 38-4 and watched as the group matured over the season to become ranked as high as 10th in the state in Class 2A in Iowa. For his efforts he is the 2009 Albert Lea Tribune area volleyball coach of the year.

“That was probably the most satisfying thing was that we grew as a team,” Boehmer said.

Boehmer admitted there were some growing pains very early in the season, but the group displayed a resolve to be just as good as last year’s team as the season progressed.

Boehmer pointed to a tournament loss to Algona, the third-ranked team in Class 3A, about a quarter into the season as a turning point.

The Bulldogs lost the match, but were competitive, and were one of the few teams to take a set from Algona during the regular season.

“We played really good, it was fun and afterwards we kind of had the feeling that we can be a good volleyball team,” Boehmer said. “I really believe it was that day when things came together for us.”

Lake Mills went 32-2 the rest of the season and advanced to the regional finals once again. The Bulldogs once again came up short in the championship game, this time to Sheldon in four sets, but it was a game some wouldn’t have thought Lake Mills could reach at the start of the season.

Those who doubted how the Bulldogs would fare this season saw the strength of the program and for Boehmer that strength has come from the consistency of having the same core of coaches around for more than three decades.

“Any sport for 30 years that has had only two coaches, my guess is you could say they’ve done good,” said Boehmer, who has been the head coach for 18 seasons.

Donna Ellingson served as head coach of the volleyball team for 11 seasons and later joined Boehmer as an assistant coach along with Ree Pederson. Together the three have given the program a consistency that has developed into a strength.

“I like to give the girls a lot of credit but I tell you the girls have come and gone but my assistants have not and the program remains strong,” Boehmer said. “Consistency in our program has been key.”

Boehmer remains as enthusiastic about volleyball as he did when he first took over as head coach. His passion remains strong not just because he enjoys coaching, but because it’s important for him to display his level of commitment to the players so they in turn display a similar amount of devotion.

“To me, if you want the kids to have passion for what you’re doing, don’t you have passion for what you’re doing? I want them to know I’m all in,” he said. “How can I tell them to be all in if they don’t see me doing it.”