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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
August 12, 1988     The Message
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August 12, 1988

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12 Sports The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana August 12, 1988 Rutter on Sports By DAVE' RUER Th t,. Darlene Rooney era oegins at Mater Dei Pinch Darlene Rooney. Go ahead. Pinch her. She won't feel a thing. When you're immersed in a dream, life is like that -- all fuzzy, fluffy, bouncy stream of emotions. How do you react when your hopes are fulfilled in the oddest and most unexpected of ways? When Miss Rooney graduated from Mater Dei High School in 1983, the first thing she wanted out of life was likely to be the last she could expect. "It was always my life's ambition to come back and teach and coach at Mater Dei," she says. What she was best at, of course, was volleyball. It was the sport which helped her through college at Murray State where she con- tributed to launching the school's Division I pro- gram. She was the Racers' first captain and, if the truth were known, knew more about volleyball than even some of the coaches. She\\;did as much coaching as playing. Now at 23 and fresh out of school, Miss Rooney will find out how much she learned, and have the most perfect of all forums to prove it. Perfect for her, at least. She's the new head coach at Mater Dei. She flew into town last week, has lived out of a suit- case at her parents' home ever since, met her team for the first time at practice last Monday and has just a few weeks to get ready to launch the season against reigning regional champion Boonville. Just a few weeks ago, he was running two boys club athletic programs in Gadsden, Ala. It was her first job as a college grad, and not one she particularly coveted. When most high schools hire a new girls volleyball coach, it's an administrative footnote. Principals are required to fill teaching vacan- cies every summer, and this is another on a list of low threshold items. At least low threshold from a publicity perspective. Both Miss Rooney and Principal Walter Bowman know that is not the case at Mater Dei. Volleyball is to girls sports at Mater Dei what football and wrestling are to the boys sports. They carry the headlines and the history. In some regard, Mater Dei coach Darla Ed- wards -- and Carolyn Adler before her -- shaped what volleyball has become in southern Indiana. In short, it has become a highly visible, highly in- tense, highly supported spectator sport. And more than that, Mater Dei's program has molded the sytle and the agenda of the game here -- tough, athletic, physical. Mater Dei's 10 straight sectional titles and con- secutive string of city championships dating back to neolithic days attest to where the Wildcats have been. But now that Miss Edwards has accepted the head coaching job at Harrison High School, the question becomes: where is it going? Where it's always been if she has anything to say about it, says Miss Rooney. "Yes, I know what the tradition is at Mater Dei because I was part of it," she says. "I've been through it, and I think I know what works. I'm good friends with Darla and I know where we stand. But we've got the people, the tradition and Mater Dei is going to be ready to go. I'm not flying in here with a lot of new things. I've been coached both by Darla and Carolyn, two of the best. So I'm not here to tear down things." There is some mild irony that Miss Edwards alerted Darlene Rooney to keep her eyes open about the Mater Dei job. She had submitted her resume earlier, but nothing had come of it. "It's just been sort of a chain reaction," she says. This might be the first example of a student coaching against her original mentor in local high school sports. If Mater Dei somehow extends its city and sectional strings this season, the Wildcats will have to get leadership from seniors Paula Kiesel and Cindy Bradley. Kiesel's injury during the regional last fall probably cost Mater Dei a legitimate shot at the title. Aside from that, Miss Rooney says she is building a team, looking for the pieces that match the puzzle. But you can be sure the next Mater Dei team will bear a different imprint. It is the beginning of the Rooney-era. "The kids are very enthusiastic," she says. "These girls know what it is to win, and what it takes. I'm a fundamental kind of coach -- team- work and physical conditioning. We want power- ful hits at the end of each sequence. We'll be do- ing some drills that have been the same ever since I was here. Plus, there are some things I'm going to throw in." "I told the kids at our first practice that we have to communicate and have a good time at this," she said. "Also, I told them that one of my goals is to get Harrison." "That's when they yelled the loudest." [ ' ...... ? Call 424-2555 : I ....................... ;o;coM;[00;E ....................... 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