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Late coaching change made for Kaneland girls volleyball

The job offer thrilled Kerri McCastland but it came with a consequence that “rips your heart in half,” she said.

McCastland, a teacher and department chairwoman at Plainfield North, was offered a dean’s position at DeKalb, but found out after receiving the job offer late last month that she would be unable to continue coaching girls volleyball at Kaneland in her new role.

Cynthia Violett will replace McCastland as the Knights’ coach, Kaneland athletic director Peter Goff confirmed. The last-minute coaching change created quite the backdrop for the start of preseason tryouts for the Knights on Wednesday.

“[McCastland] was disappointed she had to do it but like I told her, you have to do what’s best for your family,” Goff said. 

McCastland, a Geneva resident, said she worked intensively during the offseason leading up to what would have been her second year with the Knights.

“I spent the entire offseason reconstructing the schedule, picking new tournaments, uniforms, warmups, building a program and just really making it my own, and I was so ready to launch,” McCastland said. “I couldn’t even wait for camp and all of that to go down … it all happened so quickly.”

McCastland’s hiring at DeKalb was approved at an Aug. 5 school board meeting and she said she submitted her resignation the next day, but had laid the groundwork with players beforehand.

Despite the abrupt timing, Violett figures to bring a steadying influence to the program. She was McCastland’s varsity assistant and the program’s head coach from 1997-2001. 

“That’s the thing about it is Cynthia Violett has been a mainstay for our volleyball program,” Goff said.

Violett is listed on Kaneland’s website as teaching and learning coach. A former counselor at Kaneland, she played college volleyball and basketball at Upper Iowa University.

The Knights are scheduled to open their season Aug. 27 at a tournament hosted by Wheaton North.

McCastland came to Kaneland last year with extensive volleyball coaching experience, including previous stints at Oak Forest, Andrew, Plainfield South and Plainfield North. The Knights went 14-16 in McCastland’s lone season, falling to Sycamore in an IHSA Class 3A regional final.  

McCastland said she’s confident Violett will thrive in her new role but lamented the timing of the transition, noting Goff’s recent arrival as Kaneland’s AD.

“I feel terrible because I feel like I stressed his life out a little but hopefully he’ll forgive me for that, but I think he’s going to be great for them there,” McCastland said. “I think he’s super invested and I think he’s made some good choices already.”

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