Rachel Sawyer remembers getting the text earlier in the summer.
It was from Lindsey Carter, who, after stepping down as the head coach for Dr. Phillips’ varsity volleyball program in the summer of 2013 to spend time with her children, is returning to the sidelines for the Panthers this season.
“She was really excited,” Sawyer, a senior for Dr. Phillips, recalled. “She was already texting me ‘I have practice planned out for the first day, I’m so excited!’”
For Carter, who compiled a 151-47 record over her first seven years leading the program at Dr. Phillips, that first day back in the gym was all it took to get right back in the swing of things.
“It’s seriously just like riding a bike,” Carter said. “My first day at open gym it just all clicked again.”
Being back on the sideline so soon, though, is certainly a bit of a surprise for Carter. When she stepped down a little more than a year ago, she was pregnant and expecting her second child. At the time, she figured her departure from the program would have had a bit more longevity — but life had other plans.
“I thought I was really done for a good while,” Carter said. “I figured when my kids [currently ages 3 and 1] get into school, I may start coaching then.
“I didn’t expect to [return so soon] but then when Dr. Phillips approached me … it was like a calling. At that point it seemed like a really good choice.”
Four of the team’s 15 varsity players were on the roster when Carter coached the team in 2012. An additional six players were on the varsity team a season ago, when Ashley Schinzing coached the program. For Carter, having some continuity from when she coached the team two seasons ago has been pivotal in reestablishing her system and culture in the locker room.
“A lot of them already know how I am,” Carter said. “They were already all on that page because those four girls told all of them what to expect.”
Dr. Phillips, after reaching the state playoffs in 2012, had a down year in 2013. The Panthers finished 8-17, though Carter doesn’t believe it was because Schinzing — who is a coach at Orlando Volleyball Academy — wasn’t up to the task.
“Ashley is a great coach, it’s just change is always hard and I think that was part of the equation,” Carter said. “She did a great job with the girls.”
The Panthers will be young in 2014, with two talented freshmen (Morgan Grillier and Kelly Gauger) on the roster. Though the hope is to contend for a district championship, and beyond, Carter has tempered expectations for her girls in the opening few weeks of the season — which begins on Aug. 26 with a road game at Colonial.
“I expect somewhat of a regression because they’re trying to do things the right away and I hope that by midseason it’ll be habit,” Carter said.
As for her seniors, who are excited to have their old coach back on the sidelines, succeeding this season is something they’re going to have to work for.
“I think we just have to have the drive,” Sawyer said. “We obviously don’t want to end up like last year. We want to go much further and prove a lot of people wrong.”