Can a local tinge reinvigorate the Labette Cardinals volleyball program?
As Haley Miller enters her second year as Cardinal head coach, local ties are one of the many pillars upon which she’s built her foundation.
That pillar was added onto this offseason with the hiring of Kaelyn Yeoman, a 2015 Oswego High School graduate, as the Cardinals’ assistant coach.
“Having somebody on the coaching staff that’s local is going to help us out,” Miller said. “We have three local players coming onto the roster this year. We’re slowly bringing back those community ties into our program.”
Yeoman played college volleyball for three seasons, playing one year apiece at Neosho County and Coffeyville before getting an NCAA Division I offer to Prairie View A&M in Texas, where she played last fall.
In 2018, Yeoman was a starting middle blocker for the Coffeyville Red Ravens squad that won the NJCAA Division II national title. Yeoman averaged 1.64 kills and 0.68 blocks per set that fall.
“I watched her grow up in this conference,” Miller said. “I watched her at Neosho County, I watched her transfer to Coffeyville and be really successful there. Then she gets a Division I scholarship, which speaks volumes about an athlete. That’s what stands out more than her resume. She has that volleyball IQ, which will help us out in the long run.”
Yeoman cites that national title as a life-changing experience that can translate into her coaching career.
“It was the best week of my life,” Yeoman said. “It made me have a different outlook on life and success. We didn’t ever know we were going to accomplish that. We took it day-by-day with the group we had. It was a very special experience and made me never want to settle for anything less in life than being a champion.”
While at Prairie View A&M, Yeoman appeared in 27 of the team’s 32 matches, notching 77 kills and 63 blocks over the season.
“She’s going to bring a different level of energy to this program that’s needed,” Miller said. “I’m super passionate. That’s not something past assistants have had. That’s something Kae will fill in.”
Yeoman will finish her criminal justice degree online as she starts her coaching career. The former Oswego Indians star hopes her local ties can inspire the community and program.
“It’s nice being back home and not having to know I might have to pack up in six months,” Yeoman said. “It’s nice being in one spot. I know volleyball can be big around here. I’m from Oswego and went JUCO to two different places, yet I can show kids in this area the success I had.”
Oswego volleyball head coach Janna Olson cited Yeoman’s passion for the game as the overriding factor in her success.
“I think she’ll do a great job at Labette,” Olson said. “She’ll bring a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm to the program. She really loves the game of volleyball and that will help influence the girls that she’s coaching.”
Yeoman will get a chance to coach a fellow Oswego alum this fall as Rileigh Vail will be a freshman on the team.
“They were both really strong leaders for our program. They both had great work ethic, they loved the game and they help the people around them,” Olson said. “They both make their teammates better players.”
Labette volleyball has historically struggled in the Kansas Jayhawk Conference. Both Yeoman and Miller spent time at Neosho County, while Miller was also a longtime assistant coach at Fort Scott.
“Neosho County, Fort Scott and Coffeyville are all different yet successful programs,” Miller said. “It’ll be great to see how all those programs mesh together here at Labette.”
“I’m not going to sit here and compare this program to the ones I came from,” Yeoman added. “I don’t see us as underdogs. Knowing this conference, I know any team can win. Yeah, Labette has had a long couple of seasons. But that’s in the past. I want to see what we can do now and what I can do to add to the program.”
Still pursuing her degree, Yeoman’s biggest obstacle early will be getting her feet wet on the recruiting trail.
“I used to be terrified to talk to people,” Miller said. “I used to have to give myself a five-minute pep talk before I’d walk onto the court. So it’s all about getting her comfortable, letting her network and get out there.”
Is Yeoman nervous in her new role as a college coach?
“I don’t have a lot of anxiety coming into it,” Yeoman said. “I’m ready to keep learning. I’m confident in myself and ready to do this.”