Eight seasons ago, Ted Deppe took charge of an East Hall volleyball team that had won a single match in its first four years of existence.
In the fall, his Lady Vikings stood at the top of Area 7-AAA, advanced to the Elite Eight in the state tournament and recorded a school-record 44 wins.
The difference, Deppe said Saturday evening, came from changing the mindset of his program.
“Winning breeds winning,” he said. “They didn’t believe they could win, they’d get down in a match and give up. But these years, we’d fight our way back. That refusal to lose was important.”
Deppe, The Times’ 2014 Coach of the Year, helped steer East Hall (44-15, 6-2 Area 7-AAA) to its most successful season in program history with wise offseason moves, a charismatic approach and a willingness to push players out of their comfort zones, according to many of his players.
Deppe said he wanted to change the mentality of his players, who would often get discouraged when they began dropping points.
“We’ve had good players, who were good ball players, but their heart wasn’t set right,” said senior opposite hitter Ashleigh Burnett. “Deppe motivates people to get their heart in the game.”
The coach has a history of working with his players to find the best fit for his team. Last year, he moved former Viking Tarryn Long to middle hitter to balance out East Hall’s defense. Deppe moved Player of the Year Allyson Segars to outside hitter to great effect this past season, which allowed the senior to lead the Lady Vikings in kills (287) and aces (180) en route to an Elite Eight appearance in the Class AAA state tournament.
“It was hard for (Deppe) at first, because girls had this negative mentality of the game,” said Long, who now plays outside hitter for Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland. “But in my junior year, we had a breakthrough, a winning season, went to state, because girls were willing to listen to what he had to say.”
In 2014, the stars aligned for East Hall volleyball. With a core group of seven seniors, including four starters, the Lady Vikings mounted a record-breaking year by notching their first-ever area title and winning two home playoff games against Ringgold and Kendrick before losing in straight sets to Oconee County in Watkinsville.
Deppe called the Kendrick victory “the biggest win in program history.”
Some East Hall players call Deppe a “second father.”
“I’ve never met a coach so great,” said sophomore outside hitter Minette Maldonado. “He’d always say, in the end, ‘you’re a tough group of girls.’ That was great. He’s the best coach I’ve ever met.”
With East Hall on the back of three straight winning seasons, the culture of volleyball has changed for the better, according to Segars. By instituting a winning mentality, she said, the volleyball program has grown into a possible area contender under Deppe’s leadership.
“It’s all finally started clicking,” Deppe said. “I just hope we can build on the success we had and keep it up.”