When the All-Parish Volleyball Team was selected by the parish’s coaches at the conclusion of the season, Doyle coach Ashlie Byrnes was mostly an observer during the voting process.
That changed when it came to naming the parish’s coach of the year. At that point, her fellow coaches bestowed the honor on Byrnes, who also has the honor of coaching the first-ever Doyle volleyball program.
“I don’t think it’s really set in yet,” Byrnes said. “I know being around Jenn (Springfield coach Jennifer Hebert), she’s brought it up to me, and … I can’t believe these people, these idols in my life, have nominated me for this position, and it just means a lot coming from such excellent coaches.”
“They’ve all worked so hard, and they’ve all been idols to me as a I continued coaching,” Byrnes said. “It was just very shocking to see that they all thought I deserved Coach of the Year – the best kind of shocking – but shocking.”
The reasoning behind Byrnes’ selection was that she helped get the Doyle volleyball program off the ground this past season. She said her first year coaching a new program was a learning experience.
“It was definitely interesting,” Byrnes said. “I know most of us expected for them to not come out as strong as they did, but they definitely impressed me, other coaches, teachers, students, everybody. It was a great season. We still have a lot of work to do for next season, but we’re getting there.”
Byrnes recently turned 21 and is a student at Southeastern Louisiana University, something she said it worked in her favor.
“I was eager,” she said. “I was eager to start. It hasn’t been that long since I was in the same position as these girls that are playing for me, so I feel like getting out there to show them what I know, to show them how to play, how to be a good coach – I was just ready to jump into it, and I was ready to take on that challenge.”
Along the way, Byrnes also learned a bit about herself while coaching players with no previous experience playing volleyball.
“I learned that it’s good to be patient, especially when they’re first starting out,” she said. “Sometimes they’re not going to get it right away. You have to be patient. You have to keep working with them, make sure they master the skill. Definitely patience is something that I’ve learned throughout this whole process.”
“Some of them learned how to do it quicker than other girls, so I had other girls lagging behind, but that was the only problem we faced is we couldn’t all be on the same page at one time, but toward the end of the season, we all got there,” Byrnes continued. “They all have the love for the sport that I hoped they would, and it paid off.”
Byrnes said the biggest moment of the season came when Doyle’s ‘A’ team, which featured the squad’s seniors and juniors got a win over Walker’s junior varsity team.
“They won, and at that moment, it clicked,’” Byrnes said. “I was like, ‘They’ve got this. They know what they’re doing.’ They did everything that I asked them to. They got their serves over. I had one girl serving spots, and she hit the spots each time, which is impressive for a girl that’s just starting out in volleyball in itself. Their energy was unmatched. They were happy and cheering, unbeatable at that point. They just did everything I’ve ever asked them to do.”
In its first season, Doyle played strictly a JV schedule, with the original plan to play a JV schedule for two seasons before moving up to varsity. That plan was accelerated after the team’s success this season, with Byrnes saying Doyle will play a varsity schedule next year as the school moves up to Class 3A in other sports. Doyle is slated to play in Division IV next season in volleyball.
“They just exceeded everybody’s expectations,” Byrnes said. “The principal (Lance Dawsey) and the other coaches got together, and they were like, ‘We’re thinking that we need to go varsity, and I said, ‘Absolutely,’ because the more experience they have, the better we’ll be in the future.”
“I can see that they’re eager to want to play bigger and harder teams,” Byrnes continued. “This past season, they’ve worked so hard. They literally started from the bottom and have come out on top, so I think they’re ready (to move to the varsity level) just because of all the hard work they’ve put in and how well they’ve exceeded everybody’s expectations.”
After playing with an ‘A’ team and a ‘B’ team last season, Byrnes said Doyle will have a varsity and JV team next season. This past season’s team featured two seniors and two juniors with five to six sophomores expected to move up as well.
Looking ahead, Byrnes said her goal for the program isn’t complicated.
“To get to state,” she said. “That’s the end goal I would like to see. That would be a big accomplishment for the program and the school in itself, and one day, I think we’ll be able to get there.”