By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports
The STMA volleyball team has a new coach. Michelle Chen, previously a coach at Park Center High School among various other jobs over a 30 year career, has taken over for Jill Anderson.
Chen grew up in Fargo, beginning her coaching career as a fifth-year senior in college. Among other ventures, she helped start South Dakota State University’s tennis program while attending grad school there.
More recently, she had coached at Park Center High School and planned to take some time off until she saw that the STMA coaching job had opened up. Her daughter, who will be a junior at Park Center, factored into the decision.
“Because this position opened up and I knew it was such a gem, she gave me the go-ahead to transfer to a different school and be a head coach,” Chen said.
Chen has high expectations for what should be a talented STMA volleyball squad.
“I know they were disappointed in their section loss last year, and I know that they believe they can go further and I believe they can go further, so my expectations are to win our section,” Chen said. Such a task will be tough with the state runner-up, Champlin Park, occupying the same section.
The Lady Knights do have one advantage; while coaching at Park Center, Chen saw many of STMA’s section opponents in action as part of the Northwest Suburban Conference. STMA opens against two of those teams; Centennial and Osseo.
Chen’s expectations do not yield any predictions about the upcoming season.
“I don’t go there,” she said.
Chen said that every girl has some kind of leadership role. Lexie Nelson, setter for the Knights, will serve as the “quarterback” of the team. Evie Harrington and Samantha Palmer were also mentioned by Chen along with Zoee Miller, Alia Dorland and Courtney McCabe on defense.
“They all bring different levels of leadership at different times. When one person is having that day when they just can’t bring it for whatever reason, we’ve got four or five people that can step up into that,” Chen said.
For the volleyball team to be successful, Chen said they must do the little things consistently.
“They need to be able to play within themselves, control what they can control, and once they get those, everything else will follow,” Chen said, adding that she aims to make the Lady Knights into a perennial state tournament team.
Chen wants each girl to come away from the season with a sense of pride knowing that they put everything out there, and to believe in themselves.
“That to me will be success,” she said.
Chen said that the team will be tested right off the bat with matches against Centennial, Osseo and Maple Grove before Labor Day Weekend, and she looks forward to the challenge.
“I cannot wait to jump in the deep end and face those teams,” she said.
The Lady Knights scored a solid three-set win against Centennial on August 26 at the Hopkins Lindbergh Center.
STMA won 25-18, 25-12, and then narrowly closed out the third set 25-23 to get the sweep and a 1-0 start.
The Lady Knights played Osseo on Tuesday night and open their home season against Maple Grove Thursday.