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Araujo returns to volleyball roots at Hiawatha

(Rob Winner — rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Hiawatha volleyball coach Jenna Araujo gathers her team before Thursday's game against Paw Paw in Kirkland. Araujo is a former Division 1 basketball standout.

KIRKLAND – Coaching volleyball was never something Jenna Araujo thought about when she played basketball for Loyola University in Chicago from 2003-07.

Araujo didn’t think about the prospect when she graduated college with a graphic design degree. It never entered her mind when she left her job in Chicago to teach and coach basketball and soccer at Burlington Central, her high school alma mater.

It was only when Araujo, who last played volleyball in high school, took a teaching job at Hiawatha this summer that coaching volleyball entered her realm of possibility.

“They had been looking for coaches for a couple of different sports this year and told me about the opportunity for volleyball, and I wanted to get this program started,” Araujo said. “It seemed like a decent opportunity, and I was willing to try it and give it all I’ve got.”

Volleyball has changed since Araujo was a middle blocker and left-side hitter for the Rockets – for instance, there was no libero when she played – so she had some catching up to do when she took the job in June.

“I contacted an old coach of mine and I sat down and talked to a couple of different coaches,” Araujo said. “I started researching drills on the internet, looking through, trying to figure out what kind of defenses we want to run and things like that.”

It didn’t take long for Araujo to get into the swing of coaching a different sport. Shortly after taking the job, she held her first camp and outlined areas of needed improvement, including how to play defense and cover blockers.

She also decided that her team wouldn’t use a libero, because her best defensive players could play in the front row.

“It wasn’t too much new, it was just seeing the game from a coach’s perspective versus a player’s perspective,” Araujo said. “Volleyball was not something I had thought about at the time. At the same time, it is something that I’ve known and I’ve done myself. I’m happy with the decision that I’ve made and I wouldn’t trade it.”

Araujo’s senior-laden team started slowly this season, losing their first four games of the season before winning four in a row. They now sit at 5-9 overall and 2-3 in the Little Ten Conference.

But unlike last season, the Hawks are competitive, even though Araujo has had to get used to a new sport.

“There’s a different kind of mentality as far as movement and strategy and things,” Araujo said. “I wouldn’t say that it’s a whole lot different. They’re eager to learn, and having that excitement from the players makes it a fun job to do. When kids are eager to be there and eager to learn, it helps.”

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