Q&A: Alexa Keckler discusses first season as volleyball head coach

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Sophomore middle back Claire Nagelhout, freshman setter Sarah Carman and coach Alexa Keckler prepare for practice on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in Grace Hall. Coach Keckler is in her first year of coaching at Lehigh after spending 13 seasons coaching at Muhlenberg College. (Maddie Sheifer/B&W Staff)

Alexa Keckler joined the Mountain Hawks this fall as the head coach of Lehigh Volleyball. The team currently has an overall record of 16-3 (5-2 Patriot). The Brown and White sat down with Keckler to discuss her first season at Lehigh.

Q: What did you do prior to coming to Lehigh?

AK: I was at Muhlenberg College. I spent thirteen years as a Division III coach.

Q: How was the adjustment to a Division I team, along with the transition to a brand new school environment?

AK: I think getting here last spring, having those few months to train and not (being) pressured with in-season play right away, was really helpful to incorporate the changes I wanted to see from a culture standpoint, expectations and guidelines. It gave us time to adapt, tweak and get on the same page, which made this fall a lot smoother of a coaching change.

Q: You mentioned bringing a culture shift to the team. How important is culture compared to actual ability?

AK: I would say culture is more important than actual skills. If there isn’t a strong buy-in, then it’s difficult to meet the potential of our players and the talent level they may possess.

Q: Your season has obviously been going very well so far. What can you attribute that success to?

AK: I would say our team’s ability to keep a fresh outlook. We don’t get sucked into failures or poor tendencies that happened previously, but instead, (we) look at each week and each match as a new challenge and tackle it head-on. We’ve faced adversity already with having (Ana Spangenberg), one of our preseason (Patriot League) All-Conference picks, tear her ACL. We’ve worked hard at not letting that impact our whole season, but have had some amazing players step up and fill that void.

Q: What was it like coming onto a team with upperclassmen that were used to working with another coach for so long?

AK: The thing that was most surprising to me when I arrived at Lehigh was how I was accepted with open arms, from both the players and the staff. It made our adjustments a lot easier. Communication is really important, so (I started) getting (upperclassmen’s) feedback on things they liked and wanted to keep, as well as where their frustrations were and how that could be solved within my values and standards as a coach.

Coach Alexa Keckler poses before volleyball practice on Monday, October 1, 2018, in Grace Hall. Under her leadership this season, the team currently has an overall record of 16-3 (5-2 Patriot League). (Maddie Sheifer/B&W Staff).

Q: Coming into this season, what were some goals you set for your team, and how well have they done putting themselves on track to meet them?

AK: For me, goals always involve continual progression upward — not hitting that mid-season lull, not letting the highs and lows affect us as we play. So far, we’ve minimized these lulls and lows, but we still have challenges ahead. We are now getting to that Pacing Break point where stress levels increase, we’re traveling a lot more and my goal is to keep that energy and enthusiasm high.

Q: Do you have any tangible goals, like a record or a championship?

AK: Ultimately, if we were playing and didn’t want to win a Patriot League Championship then something would be wrong with us. It was never put on the table as a clear goal, because it was always just a given.

Q: In general, relating to the difference in the culture of the schools, how has been your adjustment to Lehigh’s campus after Muhlenberg?

AK: I really appreciate how at Lehigh, players aren’t just employees. (It’s about whether you are) eligible and can you perform on the court, but it’s also about who you are as a person. I really value the relationships I have with my players and I’m able to understand their lives as college students, outside of just volleyball. Of course, once I get through a full year I’ll have a better understanding of how things work here, and even then, it’ll take some time to adjust.

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