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Linn-Mar Volleyball Coach Kehe Acts as 'Mom Away From Home'

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MARION -- She has built a program from scratch. Built it into a small-school dynasty.

Relatively speaking, this should be a snap. Shouldn't it?

"We've got a ways to go," new Linn-Mar volleyball coach Teresa Kehe said during practice last week. "The first thing I want to do is change the climate. We need to raise their volleyball IQ.

"This is like life. If you're going to go apply for a job, are you willing just to get by? Or do you want to be successful?"

Kehe won't stand for less.

"In the past, we've just kind of settled," said senior libero Kiley Coppock. "We don't give ourselves enough credit. She's definitely pushing it out of us."

The Lions went through a tumultuous season last year. Rob Justis resigned abruptly early in the season, and the team finished 15-20.

A Cedar Rapids native -- she graduated from Jefferson High School in 1977 -- Kehe received her first phone call from Linn-Mar Associate Athletics Director Tonya Moe in November.

"I wasn't looking for a new job," said Kehe, who spent seven years at Loras College after constructing the Tripoli High School dynasty. "I was intrigued when Tonya contacted me. Like I tell the kids, you need to keep your options open.

"When the PE job opened, I was intrigued more. I love teaching. It's who I am."

Coppock was one of several players that sat in on Kehe's interview.

"I knew her past. We knew if she came it was going to be different -- a good different," Coppock said. "She gave a good interview. She was all pumped. She knew where we were and where we want to be."

They would like to be where Kehe has been before. In 23 seasons at Tripoli, she amassed a record of 579-140-37. The Panthers advanced to the Class 1A finals eight straight years from 1998 through 2005, winning six championships in that run.

At Loras, she compiled a mark of 132-112 with two Iowa Conference championships.

Kehe is 54 now. Can she duplicate her previous success as a high school coach?

"Ultimately, it comes down to the kids," she said. "At Tripoli, they bought into it, then they sold it to the younger kids. We've got to get to that point."

She has two grown sons. And now, at Linn-Mar, dozens of surrogate daughters.

"I'm tough with them. I told them, 'I'm your mom away from home.'

"Sometimes it's going to be tough love. If their room at home is messy, their mom is going to tell them to pick it up. If they're messy on the court, I want them to clean it up.

"It's little things, like how you stand at the net. It's your body language. You come out on the court, and you're going to come out as a class act."

But Kehe is anything but a dictator. When she raises her voice, it's generally to instruct and encourage."

She cares about her kids, and eventually, they'll learn that.

"In our huddle before practice, it's great," Coppock said. "We just get together and share stories about our day."

The Lions will drill. They'll push. They'll play silly games, like Chicken On A Hill.

And certainly, they'll improve. Other than last year's leading hitter (Megan Allmandinger graduated), the rest of the roster is back.

"It's a lot more intense than last year, but it's fun," said junior setter Sarah Renner. "We're raising our standards, and hopefully our level of play.

"Like Coach says, we have it in us. We've just got to find it."

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