With late changes in the program, Plano East’s volleyball team is quickly preparing to start the regular season.
Nikki Pugh, last season’s first-year head coach, takes on a new role as head coach at Berkner High School in Richardson. Taking over the team is Sarah Perez, the varsity assistant and junior varsity coach at Woodrow Wilson High School. She also coached both boys and girls club teams with the Dallas Starlings. Following her former athletic director Tony Benedetto to Plano East, she was excited to take the position at Plano ISD.
“I loved working for him as an athletic director,” Perez said. “He’s great to work with and allows the coaches to be in the best position to help the kids succeed and allows us the space to do what we think is best. Then the community and chance to be a head coach was too good to pass up.”
With the season quickly approaching, Perez is working to get acclimated to her new environment as head coach. She’s only seen the team for a few short days in their finals days of camp but now prepares for tryouts ahead of their Aug. 9 start date to the regular season.
“I’ve only seen them for about three days,” Perez said. “We have tryouts this week and choose teams this week, so we haven’t set in any goals yet. Once we have all of the pieces together, we’ll figure out what we want to accomplish.”
With less than a week until the start of the new season, coach Perez said she doesn’t plan on making any major wholesale changes to the team until they can get more time on the court.
“Change is obviously hard, but I’m not going to come in and in the first few weeks try and change everything,” Perez said. “I want to let them play the way they’re comfortable and then day-by-day tweak and fine-tune the process to the point where we feel good about it. I want to be open with the players so that they know why I’m doing what I’m doing, and they can buy into the process.”
The major goal she has with Plano East early on is creating an environment she believes will help the team be successful on and off the court. Winning can be a product of a positive environment and coach Perez said the Lady Panthers is where she feels like she can have success.
“Volleyball and being an athlete is so much more than who you are on the court,” Perez said. It’s about integrity, motivation and trying to be the best people we can be on and off the court. I want to grow team culture and galvanize the program from freshmen to varsity level.”