Former Nikiski volleyball coach Bruce King has accepted the position of head coach of the Soldotna volleyball team, according to SoHi Athletic Director Pat Nolden.
The hiring is imminent, he said, as details and paperwork still need to be completed.
“He has that grit. In the interview, he had that grit of wanting to compete and wanting to get his girls, whoever he coaches, to the next level,” Nolden said. “We liked that.”
After finishing 18-2 with a fourth-place finish at the 3A state championships in November, King resigned from Nikiski following five solid seasons during which the Bulldogs claimed three regular season Southcentral Conference titles. He took the Bulldogs to state four times yet wasn’t able to capture a title, something he accomplished during his roughly seven-year tenure as an assistant coach.
“I just got tired of commuting,” said King, who resides in Soldotna. “I’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s an hour and a half out of my day everyday to go out there.
“You have to keep your hands on the program year-round,” he added. “In my case, I would end up sometimes driving 7,000 or 8,000 miles back-and-forth.”
King will take over for Pako Whannell, who resigned following Soldotna’s surprising 2006 campaign.
All she did was lead SoHi to a seventh-place finish in its first trip to the 4A state tournament since the Stars placed fifth in 1997.
“He’s a very experienced coach. He’s been very successful and we’re looking forward to having him in our school,” Nolden said. “He seems to be able to take kids and turn them into championship caliber.
“To get a coach with that kind of experience and his resume with what he’s accomplished is just ideal for Soldotna High School.”
King said his tight-knit group of seniors, set to graduate this year, made it harder to leave Nikiski earlier.
“It would have been extremely difficult for me to leave before these seniors graduated because we’ve been a part of each other’s lives the last four years. It’s always hard to leave,” he explained. “There’s some quality kids out there right now. When you continue to have quality kids coming into the program it makes it hard to leave. It was not an easy decision.”
While the choice was difficult, he is now excited about the new opportunities that come with the position.
“I think it’s going to offer some different challenges than what I anticipated. I think it will offer some opportunities to do some different things that might help those kids get better faster,” King said. “There’s certainly a lot of support like there is out in Nikiski, a lot of support in the Soldotna area for volleyball. There’s a lot of volleyball expertise to draw on over in this area as well.”
In a volleyball rich region, King is set on renewing some winning tradition at SoHi.
“I don’t think any coach takes a job not thinking he’s capable of pushing a team forward,” he said. “I certainly would have that expectation.”
Nolden is hoping so, too.
“We went to state this year with some big upsets at the region tournament and got up into the tournament and we’re hoping to make this an every year event to get up to state,” he said. “Not to put any pressure on the new coach.”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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