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Tony Kruse and crew are back coaching H-F volleyball teams

Tony Kruse’s hiatus as the Homewood-Flossmoor High volleyball program head coach is over.
Kruse, a physical education teacher, had been the girls head coach for the first 10 years and worked with the boys team for six years of his 14-year tenure at H-F. He walked away from coaching when he and his wife started their family.  He wanted to have hours at home when his two children, now 4 and 2, were born and share family responsibilities with his wife.
But the head coach position opened up again in spring, and Kruse stepped back into the role. He also got his coaching team to regroup. Mark Ciesielski, director of Viking TV, returns as assistant varsity coach, joined by fellow coaches Jen Olmstad and Jason Volkman for sophomore and freshmen teams.
“Their familiarity with the program at all three levels was there and the transition was pretty smooth and pretty easy because I was able to bring them back,” he said.
“It’s been great to be back. I missed the competitive nature of sports,” Kruse said. “The higher level of competition and being part of a program at H-F is just an awesome thing.  I just love competition. I think it makes you a better person because you are always striving to get better. As a coach, you can never become complacent.   
“The girls are great. They work hard, they really bought in to our system. We started slow this season, but H-F is playing top teams.  We’re making progress. We’ll get there. I’m excited for this year and years to come.”
Kruse’ team got back to work in July when 20 girls came out for volleyball camp. In early August, Kruse hosted try-outs for the varsity team. He took only 10 girls.
He calls try-outs “the worst part of coaching” because he knows he’s going to have to leave some out. “It’s the part I dread the most,” Kruse said. Still, he knows every player on a team wants to play and “I didn’t want to keep people just as practice players.”
The varsity team, with one senior, seven juniors and two sophomores is smaller than some teams, but Kruse said, “I like a smaller team. I like the competitive nature that it creates.”
Volleyball is a fall sport. The team will play 35 games by Oct. 23. Its record is 18-8 and is the #5 seed in its IHSA sectional division. Kruse isn’t worried. He said the H-F team is playing against some ranked and very competitive teams and has been able to hold its own. 
The team also has an extensive travel schedule. It’s first game was in Munster, Indiana, and has played Naperville schools at a competition in Plainfield, in a Lake Forest tournament, and will go down to Manteno.
“The fun part about coaching is being able to connect with your athletes because you all have a common goal. The athletes are eager to learn and want to get better,” Kruse said. 
He has two leaders on the team: co-captains Lia Sidberry and Journey Barsh.
Lia, a third-year varsity starter, is an outside hitter. Kruse calls her “an absolutely solid player. She comes up with the big shot in the moment that we need it. She not only leads by example but is a vocal leader on the court, has a great attitude and is a pleasure to coach.”
She is the leader with a record of 68 kills in 10 games, followed by Cormaria Cooksey with 46 kills.
Journey is in the middle position. “The thing I really like about her is she wants to learn the game. She asks the right questions, she works hard and is constantly trying to improve.
Skylar Hayes plays libero, a defensive specialist position. “She’s got a knack for getting to the ball. She comes up with that. There are very few people who could pull off that play. She knows where to go. She knows where to be at all times,” he said. Skylar has 90 digs in 10 games.

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