COLUMBIA— Rose Obunaga is doing more than coaching the Stephens College volleyball team this fall — she's restoring confidence.
Obunaga became Stephens' first full-time head volleyball coach this spring. Before she arrived, the Stars only had part-time coaches.
Obunaga is no stranger to the game. In 2000 and 2004, she played volleyball for Kenya in the summer Olympics. The sport opened a door for her to move to the U.S. in 2002 and play for Missouri State University-West Plains. She then played for Columbia College, where after completing her degree she became a student assistant coach. Obunaga has also coached at the University of Evansville in Indiana and for club teams in St. Louis and Columbia.
"I'm excited for this new experience," Obunaga said. She said she was eager to get this season started and elevate the program.
Sophomore co-captain Lanie Hurt had nothing but praise for her new coach.
"She's a breath of fresh air," Hurt said.
The Stars have struggled on the court in recent years. After going 9-28 in 2009, Stephens improved to 18-20 in 2010. They slipped last season, finishing at 12-26.
The players are confident that this year, with Obunaga, they can turn things around.
"With her here, our program will be respected a lot more within the conference and around Columbia," Hurt said. "I can already tell we're gonna be a lot better than last year's team."
The team is already settling into its new groove with Obunaga. Not only is the new coach running the women hard through drills , she's making sure they enjoy themselves. At practices, Obunaga is on the court with the team the entire time. She's constantly giving feedback and joking with them.
"She's been there since day one, diving with us," senior co-captain Kelsie Byrd said. "Her personality makes us want to compete, makes us want to play."
The players are hoping to give Stephens a team they can be proud of and stand behind. With the addition of Obunaga, they believe they have all the necessary tools to succeed.
Obunaga will make her debut with the Stars against Cottey College at 4 p.m. on Aug. 31 at Wentworth Military Academy and College in Lexington.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.