NEW PALESTINE — Rarely a sports season goes by in which a New Palestine High School team isn’t playing for a regional, semistate or state title.
In the last five school years, seven Dragons athletic programs combined to raise 21 sectional championship banners. One of the few red-and-white squads not adding to the New Palestine trophy case, despite recent regular season success, is the volleyball team.
Jerry Saffold hopes to rectify the situation.
Saffold has been hired as the Dragons’ new head volleyball coach. He replaces Penii Plunkitt, who resigned after last season to spend more time with her family. Plunkitt ended her four-year helm with three straight 20-win seasons. That success didn’t carry over to the state tournament, however, and New Palestine volleyball will take a 23-year sectional-title drought into the fall campaign.
“You have to build your program from the lower levels up,” said Saffold, who will be joined by new assistant coach Kelli Whitaker. “You have to start at the middle school and even before that if you can get your youth program started. And that’s my goal.
“That’s long-term. To start with this year, a great volleyball program has to be a great passing team and a great defensive team.”