By Kyle Roberts
Ruston High School volleyball’s 2023 season will see two temporary changes that are only slated to last one year: a new home venue and a new head (yet very familiar) head coach.
And at the helm of the program for this year, Mandy Cauley, the inaugural coach of the program, will make a return to the bench for one season to give head coach Lucie Hunt the needed recovery time after summer procedures to address a cancer diagnosis– and thankfully, the prognosis is looking very good.
“I’m excited to be back as part of the program,” Cauley said. “You know, switching seats from being a parent fan to the seats on the bench is quite different– especially since I have two daughters on the team. But I’m excited about it.
“It means a lot that she trusts me with the program and her kids. It just says a lot for the level of communication and the type of relationship that we have to be able to do this. I’m just glad I can be there for her in a time of need.
For Hunt, there was no one else she would rather take over in an interim period as she will be a spectator during her recovery process.
“When we sat down in early June and talked about what was going to happen, it was obviously kind of scary looking towards the future with me stepping away and then her having to step into this role that she hasn’t been in in a very long time,” Hunt said. “She started the Ruston program, and she’s a very knowledgeable coach.
“And now that she has high school age girls playing, she just kind of did a deep dive and fully immersed herself as the volleyball mom and a volleyball coach. So it was a no brainer to ask her to step in. It was a just a good fit.”
Cauley spoke to how she has been around the current roster of players for many years, so familiarity will not be a problem.
“I’ve known this group of kids since the seniors started playing volleyball,” Cauley said. “I was their coach at A.E. Phillips or with Rocket Fuel. So I’ve been with these girls in some form or another since the beginning; it hasn’t been just the past few years. I was there when they started, and then they took their journeys in their own direction. So it’s really neat to see how they’ve grown as individuals and players.”
A fun challenge Cauley will navigate is now coaching her two daughters from the bench in junior outside hitter Harper and now freshman setter Baylor.
“There’s going to be an interesting dynamic there,” Cauley said. “I’m trying be intentional about when I talk to them as ‘mom’ and when I talk to them as ‘coach’ so that we have balance. It’s a delicate situation. Everyone tells me I’ll look back and these will be the most special memories, sure. But it’s not just their needs, but the rest of the players as well; it’s the perception of the whole team and of the parents– everybody. I don’t believe in favortism, so I’m going to be careful.”
Ruston will continue August scrimmages and host a Jamboree on Friday, Aug. 26, at the Ruston Sports Complex.
The regular season will being Thursday, Aug. 31, as Ruston will host Parkway. Stay tuned to the Lincoln Parish Journal for a story on the full volleyball schedule next week.