MOLINE — Much of Alax Battin's exposure to volleyball was centered on two coaches who made a lasting impact on her career in the sport.
And now she hopes to make those lessons the foundation of the Black Hawk College volleyball program that she now leads.
"I've been wanting to jump up to the college level and I've been prepping for it the last couple of years coaching under Mike Ducey at Moline High School,” said Battin. “I played at Black Hawk in 2013 and '14 … and was really close to Mary Davis. When I heard the position was open, I thought it was such a good opportunity to keep her legacy going and do what she was doing throughout the program.
“I just liked the culture she brought into the gym and some of her coaching styles.”
Since Davis' death in 2017, the coaching job has been one-year stints for former assistant Kelli Nitz (interim) and Katy Duncan (contract not renewed).
Battin said she brings a five-year plan into this position. Both she and first-year athletic director Arnie Chavera are hoping this is a long-term solution.
“I am excited to have Alax Battin join the BHC Athletic Department,” said Chavera. “She has acquired an excellent coaching staff and I fully expect them to have much success in recruiting the QCA area.”
Battin's ties in the Quad-Cities run deep. The 24-year-old was a standout player at Moline High School before playing for Davis at BHC where she was an all-around standout who earned All-Arrowhead Conference honors as a sophomore.
She actually began her coaching career in the fall of 2013 while still a student at BHC, running a club team at Sherrard High School. Battin also served as freshman coach at Alleman High School and was on Jack Wheeler's Orion staff in 2016. She then joined the staff at her prep alma mater under Ducey. Battin also coaches for Platform Elite Volleyball Club. For the last five club seasons, she has coached or assisted at a variety of age levels ranging from kindergartners to 18-year-olds.
She is hoping that all those local connections pay off as she builds the program. That will be a task facing her after this season as the Braves have just eight players on this year's roster. The lower numbers don't concern the new coach.
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“We were recruiting this summer and we had a lot of girls interested,” said Battin, confident her squad will grow in the coming years to the more desired number of a dozen or so.
As it stands, the Braves will have two sophomore returners in Sara Weisrock (OH/RH, Davenport West) and Sierra Gregoire (S/DS, Durant). The newcomers include Lily Parsons (S, Orion), Grayce Gordon (OH, Moline), and 5-foot, 11-inch Annie Taylor (MH, Durant).
BHC had five other freshmen on last year's roster, but Battin noted most of them chose to focus on academic pursuits and not be part of the team.
“A lot of returners decided to go down the rout of nursing school and they just wanted to focus on school,” said Battin, noting some are still helping the team scrimmage. “I totally support that — you are a student before you are an athlete.”
Battin, though, loved the dedication she saw from her elite eight heading into the season.
“The group of girls we have came to everything this summer,” she said of preseason work. “It wasn't mandatory, but they were in the gym three or fours days a week lifting — even in the off weeks those girls got together and made sure they were in the gym lifting. We have a really good group that is dedicated to volleyball.”
Even with the lower numbers, Battin feels as if this team includes plenty of talent with a lot of potential.
“We have some power hitters,” said Battin, noting three girls standing 5-10 and another 6-footer. “We're spending a lot of time working on defense, but they are all-around athletes and these girls will see a lot of playing time in the front and back row. Our biggest strength will be our offense, for sure.
“I see a lot of success with this team and we are setting some high goals for ourselves. I know it's been tough the last couple of years in the program and we haven't had a winning season since I played there. These girls are ready and they are ready to be above .500 this year.”