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Cierra Hernandez receives a serve for her side as first-year assistant coach Judd Wisener looks on during the Cougars' practice Wednesday afternoon. Hernandez is one of eight returnees for the Cougars this year.

BEEVILLE – The Coastal Bend College volleyball program has a new leader in 2019 with the promotion of 26-year-old Macy Olness to head coach.

Olness, who has been the assistant coach for the Cougars for each of the past two seasons, takes over for Paul Cantrell, who resigned as the volleyball coach to focus his efforts full-time on his position as the school’s athletic director.

Cantrell brought Olness to Beeville when he took over in 2017 and now hands over the reins of the program to her after two of the most successful seasons in program history.

“It’s been pretty busy, pretty hectic,” said Olness about taking over for Cantrell.

Her first team will feature eight returnees, including six players who were regular starters for the Cougars in 2018 – setter Samantha Santos, middle blocker Emma Batte, outside hitter Cameron Del Angel, libero Alyssa Hutcheson, and defensive specialists Cierra Hernandez and Alyssa Estrada.

Santos, who played in a team-best 114 sets while playing in all 31 of the team’s matches in 2018, led the team in assists and aces last year with 748 (6.6 per set) and 42, respectively, and was third on the team in digs with 241.

Batte led the team in blocks with 89 and was third in kills with 135 with a .156 hitting percentage.

Del Angel led the team in kills with 176 and was second in hitting percentage at .136.

Hutcheson, who also played 114 sets while appearing in all 31 matches, led the team in digs with 720, which was more than twice as many as the next Cougar on the list.

The Graham native, who was also second on the team in aces, was the first player in program history to win an NJCAA national award (NJCAA Division I National Defensive Player of the Week) and the first to earn first team honors on the all-region team.

Hernandez and Estrada combined for 564 digs with Hernandez averaging 3.2 per set and Estrada averaging 2.4.

Estrada also ranked third on the team in aces with 29.

Olness’ coaching debut is scheduled for Aug. 22 when the Cougars face Mountain View at 11 a.m. in Dallas before playing at North Lake at 4 p.m. later that same day.

The San Angelo native and Lake View High alumna is just four years removed from her playing days at the University of the Southwest in Hobbs, New Mexico.

She took an assistant coaching position at Frank Phillips after graduating from USW and spent two years with the Lady Plainsmen program.

Cantrell hired her away from FPC in 2017.

She said she’s sought his guidance throughout the summer as she prepares for her debut season.

“I leaned on him this whole summer just trying to make sure I was doing everything the way I should,” she said Wednesday after her team’s practice. “... He’s helped me out constantly. I go to his office almost every other day just to make sure that we’re ready.”

Kevin J. Keller has been the sports editor at the Beeville Bee-Picayune since 2014. He can be reached by email at sports@mysoutex.com or by phone at 361-343-5223, or you can follow him on Twitter @beepicsports.