Columbia Basin College

New coach, captains keep CBC volleyball on track

PASCO -- When former Columbia Basin College volleyball coach Jon Killingbeck resigned just 26 days before the start of the season, the program could've been thrown into chaos.

Thanks to the team captains and their new head coach, disaster was averted.

"It was very stressful, especially for the freshmen," sophomore captain Kelsey Solberg said. "We had a few (freshmen) quit. A lot was put on the captains' shoulders. ... I called them all to see if they had any questions and just to check in on them."

Killingbeck, who was hired at CBC last December, took the head coaching job at NCAA Division I Iona (N.Y.) on Aug. 5.

Despite the departure of a few players, things stabilized quickly as new assistant coach Mike Baker was promoted to the top job.

"I think it has been tremendously easier," Baker said of taking over the program.

"They already had their summer workouts and the playbook."

Baker's daughter Stephanie, who was an assistant in 2010, also helped make the transition smooth, as she knew the returning players.

"It was easier than expected," said Solberg, a Spokane Central Valley graduate, "because the assistant just stepped up. It's going a lot better than everyone expected it to."

The Hawks are hoping that smooth transition plays out on the court as well.

CBC opened the season last weekend at the Highline Invitational in Des Moines. The Hawks went 3-2 and won the silver division.

They open NWAACC play at Yakima Valley at 6 p.m. today.

"It's early, but I feel like our team has a lot of potential," sophomore Bailey Carlson said. "We are deep, which will help if someone isn't doing well. We should be pretty strong."

The Hawks are coming off of a 7-6 conference season and are hoping to get back to the NWAACC tournament for the first time since 2009, when they went 2-2 and did not place.

"I want to at least get to NWAACCs and at least place, if not win it," said Carlson, an Ellensburg graduate. "It'd be awesome to at least go and do good."

The Hawks will have to find replacements for Eva Grassl, Lilia Najera and setter Brittany Weiland, who all left after playing two years at CBC.

CBC does have Amanda Heffner (soph., Florence, Mont.) back, who was second in the East Division in digs per game with 4.76. Solberg was third on the team in kills per game last season at 2.0, while Carlson was fifth at 1.49.

"It was definitely disappointing at first, but you can't really blame (Killingbeck) because it was a good opportunity," Solberg said. "It might end up being a good thing. I think it helped the team come together."

* Craig Craker: 509-582-1509;;