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Finnell to head 'Cats volleyball

July 15, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

In the past few years there have been two traditions for the Brawley Union High School volleyball team — winning and coaching changes.

Phil Finnell hopes to end one of those traditions.

Finnell recently took over as the Wildcats' head coach less than a year after Brawley was eliminated from the San Diego Section Division II quarterfinals.

"More than anywhere else they made me feel like I was welcome," Finnell said of his reason for taking the Brawley job. "I'm gonna go in and do the best job I can."

Brawley athletic director Billy Brewer said Finnell was definitely the best fit for the job.

"We had the opportunity to get somebody on campus and that was the main issue," Brewer said. "(Former coach) Shari Stegall did a great job, but we wanted to get somebody on campus and we jumped at it. He'll give us the continuity and direction we want."


Continuity seems to be the key word for Finnell and the Wildcat program.

"I'd love to be there at least 10 years," he said. "I want the girls to know there is a program and they have to work at it year-round to get to varsity. Varsity is not just something they do, but something they work to."

Finnell, 26, first learned the game at age nine by playing with his brothers in an El Centro gym. The Calipatria High School graduate then took his skills to Pacific Christian College in Fullerton where he earned a partial scholarship and played volleyball for two years. While at Pacific Christian he was named first team all-state by the National Christian College Athletics Association. From Pacific Christian he transferred to Chico State and played for one year before graduating.

"Volleyball is my favorite thing," Finnell said of his life's passion. "It takes me away from everything else and to be able to do it as a coach is awesome."

It will be this impressive résumé Finnell will bring with him when he takes over the Wildcats next season. While this will be his first head coaching job, he is certain he will be able to help Brawley get to the next level.

"I want to defend (last year's Imperial Valley League) title and improve on the records of the past," he said. "I want to get to CIF. We'll set minor goals to accomplish our major goal, which is to win CIF."

Said Brewer: "He's going to have some growing pains. "He's kind of in a rebuilding stage and they've got their work cut out for them. But with hard work and the tradition (of winning), they'll be fine."

While taking over what is arguably the best volleyball program in the Valley might seem daunting to some, Finnell says he feels no pressure.

"The only pressure I feel is wanting to do the best I can," he said. "There is no way one person can please anybody. I'm just trying to teach the girls the game I love the best I can. Pressure is a moot point."

Finnell also feels stepping in to take over the Brawley program is the best fit for him.

"I'm best with players who have talent already," he said. "I think I have the ability to improve that talent. This is the best system for me as a coach to do my best.

"I always want the girls to have fun while they're doing it. I don't want them to feel the pressure."

For now Finnell will concentrate his energies on a summer camp the Wildcats have at the end of July as he waits for the fast-approaching season to begin.

"I've been encouraged with the turnout I've gotten," he said. "The players seem like they're willing to strive to do their best and that's all I can ask for as a coach."

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