Emily Otto has paid her dues, and now it’s time for her to reap the rewards.
Otto, 32, was named Southridge High School’s volleyball coach Thursday, taking over for long-time skipper John Lengphounpraseut, who stepped down Jan. 10.
“I finally have a head job,” she said. “ I have wanted this since I got back from college. I am extremely excited.”
Otto was an assistant for former Kamiakin coach Mary Opitz for five years, and worked with Lengphounpraseut the past three seasons.
“I picked up good things from John and Mary,” Otto said. “How to run a program, to start. I watched them and learned a lot. I loved working with Mary, she was my coach and mentor. It helped me understand what I wanted for my program.”
Otto has some big shoes to fill. Lengphounpraseut coached the Suns for 16 years. His teams won two Mid-Columbia Conference titles and advanced to regionals the past 13 years, winning once. The Suns have made six state appearances, twice placing third (2012-13) and taking sixth in 2014.
A 2004 graduate of Kamiakin, Otto was team captain and MVP for the Braves her junior and senior seasons. She was All-Big Nine her senior year, leading the Braves to a CBBN title and eighth-place finish at the 4A state tournament.
Otto walked on at Eastern Washington University and played two seasons before injuries forced her to step away.
“When I got there, I realized I wasn’t going to be playing the net,” said Otto, who transitioned to a defensive specialist. “I was 5-8 and there were girls who were 6-5. I did get some kills from the back row.”
Otto also was a standout tennis player at Kamiakin. Her senior year she played doubles with Danielle Brockus. The duo went undefeated during Big Nine play, but did not make it to state.
“We were league champs, but we couldn’t make it out of districts,” she said.
Tennis remains a big part of her life. She is in her ninth year of coaching with the Chiawana boys program, and has been the head coach for five seasons.
She also plays USTA with her mom, Valerie, at Tri-City Court Club.
“We play doubles together,” Otto said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to bond. My mom plays tennis three times a week. She is better than me. We used to live in California, and I have been playing since I was about 5. We moved here when I was in the fourth grade. We had to buy my first winter coat that year.”
Otto is in her third year of teaching eighth grade algebra at Park Middle School in Kennewick. She taught math and science for five years at McLaughlin Middle School in Pasco before changing school districts.