Mother McAuley volleyball coach Jen DeJarld is, by her own admission, a risk-taker.
In 2007, she made some radical changes during the season by bringing up some junior varsity players. They went on to help the Mighty Macs to the state finals.
“I don’t know that we had much business being in the state finals,” DeJarld said. “I coached my butt off that year and it took a long time to find it. But we found it.”
In 2012 she made the decision to bring up five sophomores and insert them into the regular rotation.
That would scream a season of coaching her butt off. Not so, said DeJarld.
“This was a group that was very self-motivated,” she said. “I rarely had to get on them about work ethic at practice. They actually love to play volleyball. I’m very fortunate.”
DeJarld’s Mighty Macs finished with a 36-5 record. McAuley advanced to state for the first time since 2008, taking third place in Class 4A.
Through eight seasons as head coach, DeJarld has a 273-53 record. Her teams have posted three third-place state finishes and a second-place showing (2007).
She had a pretty tough act to follow in Nancy Pedersen, who coached DeJarld from 1984 to ’86 and won 789 matches and nine state titles during a 22-year career.
DeJarld, who won two state championships as a player in 1984 and ’85, still is looking for her first as head coach.
She isn’t sweating it, though.
“I haven’t felt the pressure,” she said. “I mean, hey, this is where I’m from. This is where most of my whole staff is from. We’ve all won state championships. We’ve all grown up in this program. I’ve been here 18 years (as a coach), but I was here as a player as well.
“As far as not winning a state title ... listen, that’s not the end-all be-all for me as a coach, just to win state championships. I just want to be here working with Mother McAuley kids, who have always been wonderful. I’m happy to be a part of their lives and take them on a journey that’s really positive.”
DeJarld’s approach to coaching is as complex as some of her offensive schemes. She delves beyond the X’s and O’s she said she develops from reading myriad books on volleyball.
“I work really hard on developing relationships with my players, making sure they know how important every single one of them is as a contributor to our team,” she said. “And I work on mental toughness sometimes harder than I do teaching skills in volleyball. Intangibles sometimes outweigh the tangibles.”
They did when the Mighty Macs, after a season of high notes, hit a stretch just before the state playoffs that saw a handful of sloppy victories, and finally, a shocking loss to St. Ignatius in the GCAC championship match.
“We tried a lot of things when we were in our slump and finally I just beat it out them and just had a heck of a practice week the week of regionals,” DeJarld said, smiling. “But it wasn’t about their skill, it was about them feeling not very confident, especially after the St. Ignatius loss. I had to somehow make them believe they were as good as we knew they were.
“When we came out in regionals I saw a new, energized team. That’s what we were working for.”