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Volleyball: North's Cecil coaching duo aims for deep playoff run in second season
North Forsyth's Kelly and Drew Cecil
North Forsyth second-year volleyball coaches Kelly, left, and Drew Cecil guided the Raiders to their best season in school history in their debut a year ago. - photo by Micah Green

Both Kelly and Drew Cecil have thought about it, but neither can find the answer. Why does the sport of volleyball seem particularly suited to taking down the distinction between assistant and head coach and just having two of the latter?

The Cecils, Drew the husband and Kelly the wife, took that role in 2016 at North Forsyth. They had coached in tandem before, at Pikeville High School in Kentucky, and when they got to Forsyth County last year, they didn’t sense much shock or surprise at their arrangement.

“It’s not entirely uncommon in volleyball,” Drew Cecil said. “I’m not sure why, but I didn’t really feel any major reaction one way or the other. It just kind of is what it is.”

The husband-and-wife pairing in particular is present in volleyball even at the Division I level, where Wayne and Susan Kreklow head Missouri’s program together, their different titles being mostly procedural. Both the coaches and the Raiders’ players have seen it in the club volleyball scene as well.

North Forsyth's Kelly and Drew Cecil
“We just kind of balance each other out,” North Forsyth volleyball co-head coach Drew Cecil, right, says about working with his wife, Kelly, to lead the Raiders program. - photo by Micah Green

“It’s kind of like the ‘good cop, bad cop’ role,” said senior defensive specialist Kala Campbell. “One focuses more on calling the plays and strategy, but then the other one is more making sure we’re not wanting to all kill each other during the season.”

While there’s some fluidity in the Cecil’s roles, each has their own jobs. Kelly, the former college volleyball player, is mainly responsible for monitoring the players’ technique and conditioning. Drew deals more with the administrative side of the program, keeping stats and making the schedule. Kelly tears into the players when necessary, and Drew builds them back up, although the players say that each coach can do both.

“I think they have a schedule, who’s going to be the good cop and who’s going to be the bad cop,” Campbell said. “It flips back and forth.”

The benefits of having two head coaches have outweighed that unpredictability, though. Former North head coach Joy Stewart ran the program herself, which could result in moments of chaos and wonky lineups that hadn’t been checked over, Campbell said. With both Cecils in charge, everything runs more smoothly.

In season two, the novelty of having new coaches has worn off and the main story with the Raiders is whether they can upset what has in recent years been an almost unshakeable balance of power in the county’s volleyball scene.

It's kind of like the 'good cop, bad cop' role. One focuses more on calling plays and strategy, but then the other one is more making sure we're not wanting to all kill each other during the season.
Kala Campbell

If a Forsyth County team has made a deep state playoff run in recent years, that team has come from the southern part of the county. West Forsyth did it in 2011, but South Forsyth filled the role every year since then, and Lambert made it alongside the War Eagles in 2016.

South and Lambert will be stacked with talent again, but North feels it has the talent and returning experience to upset the county’s balance of power. Senior Maddie Bryant had the best kill percentage on the Raiders in 2016, and the Georgia Southern commit has mostly recovered from a thumb injury that nagged her last year. Just three seniors graduated from the program in 2016, and although senior Cassie Markle is also gone, having left the program to concentrate on basketball, the Raiders have brought on talented freshman Kate Perryman to play middle blocker. Campbell and defensive specialist Marin Black return for their senior seasons after combining for the majority of North’s digs in 2016, and setter Logan Taft is also coming back.

“We’re feeling pretty confident that, especially with our region games, we’re going to be really good, especially when we get to play Lambert and South, because we’ve lost to them in the past,” Bryant said. “We think we’re going to give them a better run for their money.”

To reach their goal, the Raiders will have to work together, like any volleyball team.

The same is true of their head coaches.

“There’s a lot of knowledge that Kelly has that I wouldn’t have and (that) I would be able to do a good job of on my own,” Drew Cecil said. “And then there’s some things that I feel like I could do a little bit better. So we just kind of balance each other out.”