Cambrian: Sports

Coast Union volleyball coach earns praise from players

The Lady Broncos celebrate following their win over Cuyama Valley on Oct. 14 at Coast Union High School.
The Lady Broncos celebrate following their win over Cuyama Valley on Oct. 14 at Coast Union High School. Special to The Cambrian

A  brisk, chilly wind off the ocean greeted senior Coast Union volleyball setter Sage Radecki as she arrived for an interview at a Leffingwell Landing picnic table on Oct. 18. But the conversation quickly changed that nippy dynamic as the warmth of the player’s feelings for her team and her coach was immediately clear. 

“We’re more special this year in that every girl gets along well with others. It’s easier to bond on the court when we are close off the court. We’re really good at bonding and coming together. We do good things working together.”

When longtime Head Coach Pam Kenyon was diagnosed with colon cancer last fall, it stunned the team because a few days before they had been told that she simply wasn’t feeling well. 

“Finding out was the hardest thing. We were stretching before practice, and we were told she had colon cancer. Oh, my God, it broke my heart, and we were just crying.

“It’s so hard to see someone with so much dedication to one thing become seriously ill. She is such an amazing presence on the court.” 

Now that Kenyon is cancer-free — although she continues to receive treatment — Radecki is surprised and impressed at the energy that her coach continues to exhibit. 

“She’s exactly the same person. You’d think that situation would set her back and that she would change a lot.

“But, oh my gosh! She is so strong, and it’s so inspiring. She treats us the same as she always did.”

Radecki recalls the spaghetti fundraiser for Kenyon last January (“PK Fight like a Girl”) that raised more than $17,000 toward the coach’s medical bills. 

“There’s a vibe that you feel when you’re working for a cause for a person who has touched you in some way. It was amazing.”

Radecki plans to attend Cal Poly next fall, majoring in agriculture and environmental sciences — with an emphasis on landscape design. 

“I am really passionate about helping people learn to use sustainable practices and to grow their own food. I have always been influenced by my grandparents, who have Old Creek Ranch in Cayucos; they sell at farmers markets.”

Meanwhile, Radecki’s senior teammate, right side hitter Cameron MacTavish, recalls being rejected when she tried out for volleyball in eighth grade at Santa Lucia Middle School. In a phone  interview Oct. 18, MacTavish said, “I didn’t make the cut — I was the only one that didn’t make it — but I asked the coach if I could attend every practice anyway.

“She said OK, and after a while, she could see I was very dedicated and wanted to learn, so she gave me a uniform, and on the very last game of the season, they let me play.” She has played all four years at Coast Union.

The Lady Broncos were 8-0 in the Coast Valley League coming into this week, following their 25-14, 25-20, 25-16 win over Coast Christian on Thursday, Oct. 16. Reflecting on the team’s chances to go deep into the CIF playoffs, MacTavish said, “Mentally, we’re going to have to keep at it. … We’ve already come so far. There is such great chemistry with the team. 

“Ever since preseason, we all just clicked. We have a kind of family bond. On the court, we are all here for each other; we don’t get upset with each other on the court or outside of the court.”

Last season, when ASB adviser Darcy Dobrec told the team at practice that Kenyon had cancer, “She had tears in her eyes and told us PK was really sick but she would get through this. I couldn’t even believe it … and we were crying.”

But shortly after the initial shock, MacTavish remembers the team going into a huddle.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘We can’t cry. We can’t do this. We need to play like she would want us to.’ We all had the exact same feeling in that exact moment.

“We knew she was going to get through this because she is so strong.”

Now that Kenyon is back leading her team, MacTavish said the coach “is definitely very, very strong. She sometimes is like a 

16-year-old again. She’s corny and girly and has her moments when she is a little tired, but she’s so into each personality on the team. It’s great to see that again — I really missed that.” 

The fact that Kenyon has kept her team up to date on the procedures doctors prescribe to prevent the cancer from coming back has had a positive impact. “She’s so willing to do that, and we appreciate that oh so much. I like knowing what is going on with my coach.”

Working on the January spaghetti fundraiser was “so humbling” for MacTavish, who helped with the drive-through part of the event. The students, teachers and community volunteers who pitched in that day created an “automatic unity … this town is so loving and supportive,” she said. “Everyone had a smile. … It was awesome.”

After graduation, MacTavish plans to attend Cuesta College to complete her general education classes, and then she expects to attend The Master’s College in Los Angeles, with a major in communications.

Meanwhile, for MacTavish and Radecki, 2015 is not in focus nearly as much as the last five Coast Valley League games. The last regular season home game is Oct. 30 vs. Maricopa, a 5 p.m. start, and the first round of CIF playoffs is expected to begin Nov. 8.