Nicole Lamica had some reservations about taking the role as Calaveras High School’s head volleyball coach. Aside from spending the 2019 season on the Calaveras bench as an assistant, Lamica had not been involved with volleyball since she coached the Calaveras junior varsity squad in 2007.
She was nervous and apprehensive about taking on such a big responsibility, but it was the support Lamica got from her returning players that pushed her in the direction of accepting the position. “I was still on the fence,” Lamica said.
“I was hoping he’d (former Calaveras volleyball coach Mike Koepp) commit to varsity again. I loved coaching JV, but varsity is a whole different animal. Ideally, I would have liked to have a few years coaching on the lower level, but the girls really pushed me to stay. The new seniors were really determined to keep me around.”
Lamica may be a fresh face to the Calaveras volleyball program, but she’s no stranger to the Calaveras campus. She arrived at Calaveras in 2006 as a special education teacher. In her first two years, the 1998 Amador High School graduate coached volleyball on the JV level. But after those two years, Lamica’s plate began to get too full and she had to scale back on what she was doing.
“Being in special education, I had to be pretty committed,” said Lamica, who attended California State University, Chico after graduating from Amador. “I was also doing my master’s classes, along with teaching and coaching. I got pretty overwhelmed and decided just to focus on my job and getting my masters done.”
After over a decade away from coaching, Lamica agreed to assist the varsity program in 2019 under Koepp. Heading into the season, Lamica didn’t know many of the players, but over time she began to feel more comfortable with the team and started to take on some more responsibilities when offered to her.
“I was very nervous to coach again,” Lamica said. “I always feel like I don’t know as much of the school population, because I’m in my own little niche with special ed. But the girls were great and really receptive and super sweet and friendly. On days where Koepp would leave early, he’d let me handle things and they’d just make me feel comfortable.”
It wasn’t much of a secret that Koepp’s tenure as head coach was going to be a short one. He took the position out of necessity for just one year and had no intention in returning in 2020. So, when it was time to permanently fill the role, Lamica was one of the top candidates.
Having a new head coach is nothing new to Calaveras senior Jenna Brotherton. Now a four-year varsity starter, Brotherton is on her fourth head coach in as many years. She began as a freshman with Pam DiBasilio, then moved on to Mikki Koepp and then last year with Mike Koepp. Although she hasn’t had back-to-back years with the same coach in her high school career, Brotherton doesn’t seem to mind the turnover.
“I like having the experience of having new coaches, and their different techniques of coaching, so I can always learn a new way of playing the game,” Brotherton said. “Also, I love building a new bond with new coaches and it makes me play harder and put in more effort, so I can show them what I’m capable of doing.”
After accepting the position in early 2020, Lamica began to get excited about the future. She was coming up with practice schedules and was looking forward to getting things started with her new team.
And then the world changed. When COVID-19 struck, it put a halt to many of Lamica’s plans.
Calaveras students and teachers left the campus in March and have yet to return.
“I was looking forward to starting conditioning with the girls after spring sports ended,” Lamica said of her pre-COVID-19 plans. “I was thinking about getting them out on the track or have them run through downtown and get them in the weight room. And then, it just all fell apart.”
As if she wasn’t worried enough to begin a new journey as head coach, Lamica then had to wait for months to find out if she would even get to begin practice with her team this month. In July, the CIF made that decision for her and postponed the start of volleyball season until December.
“It was really stressful,” Lamica said about waiting to find out when or if there would be a season. “The girls were wondering what was going to happen and I had to not only manage that, but plan life for my own students and my children. Nobody knew anything. I just felt like my mind was going to explode.”
Lamica is planning on beginning the season with her team in December. She’s planning and preparing as if the season will start on schedule. That being said, she understands that nothing is certain with the current COVID-19 situation, and while she’s hopeful there will be a season, the first-year head coach isn’t trying to downplay the significance of the pandemic.
“I really hope they have a season, but at the same time, I hope that they’d understand if it doesn’t happen,” Lamica said. “That would be really tough on all the athletes. I want for it to happen more than anything. I just keep encouraging the girls to do stuff on their own. I’m hoping that when we can come back to school, I’ll be able to do stuff in the gym with them.”
While there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the future of athletics and the upcoming volleyball season, Lamica hopes that she can eventually get on the court and finally, at long last, work with her players and officially begin her tenure as Calaveras’ head coach.
“My goal, obviously, is to win,” she said. “But I just want to be able to push them to be the best that they can be. I really like them, a lot, and I don’t want to be a disappointment to them either. I want the girls to work together and be able to talk to each other and not let other stuff get in the way. When we are on the court, we are on the court to play volleyball and all other baggage gets left at the door.”