Lewis-Palmer championship volleyball coach Susan Odenbaugh steps down

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Photo - The Lewis-Palmer team huddles around head coach Susan Odenbaugh during a timeout in the third set of the 4A Colorado state volleyball tournament finals Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, at the Denver Coliseum.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
The Lewis-Palmer team huddles around head coach Susan Odenbaugh during a timeout in the third set of the 4A Colorado state volleyball tournament finals Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, at the Denver Coliseum. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Since 2008, no team other than Lewis-Palmer or Cheyenne Mountain has won a state volleyball championship in Class 4A.

This week, Lewis-Palmer lost its coach who partook in that historic run.

On Wednesday, Susan Odenbaugh told her players she was stepping down after 15 seasons and four championships.

After contemplating the decision the past several seasons, the time finally seemed right.

"I always wanted to be a teacher first and a coach second," she said. "And it feels like more and more kids have wanted more help after school and I haven't been able to provide that for them because I've had to go to practice."

The Rangers went 29-0 in the fall, routing their way to their third title in the past four seasons.

Odenbaugh was with the program for 28 seasons and has been on staff for all six of the program's state titles. After posting a record of 347-89 and six titles, there were plenty of good times to look at, but several stuck out - the program's first title in 1993 and her first title as head coach in 2002. And of course the two seasons the program went unbeaten and garnered national recognition.

But then there was a season the Rangers didn't win the title that she pointed to. It was a semifinals win in 2009 against Mullen.

"That year is very special to us in that it was like winning the state championship for us," Odenbaugh said Saturday. "A lot of the players from that team have come back to help me coach. Ellie Rank, one of my assistants this year is back. That was a special group of girls, too, and a special season."

Nick Baker has been around Odenbaugh for years, first as a coach at L-P, now as athletic director.

"It's easy to say it's a big loss to the school, and no one is going to deny that it's a huge loss," Baker said. "But at the same time, you look at the positive impacts she's had even for thousands by now, through teaching and coaching, and it's hard to call that a loss even though she's stepping down."

Odenbaugh will continue as a part-time teacher at Lewis-Palmer and will transition into a position that helps further develop other coaches and helps guide student-athletes.

Without hesitation, Cheyenne Mountain coach David Barkley could name the game that sticks out the most for him between the two teams - a Lewis-Palmer five-set victory in 2013 in which the Indians had several match points yet watched as the Rangers rallied to win 16-14.

But a match that Barkley thought may have been even more impressive, did not directly involve his Indians - that match against Mullen.

As the reigning champions, Barkley's Indians were heavily scouted by Mullen. The Indians had beaten Mullen for the 2008 title, but the Mustangs brought back plenty of talent in 2009 and expected to see Cheyenne Mountain in the finals.

"Mullen on paper was the favorite," Barkley said. "But Odie's team came to play. Mullen never made it to the finals. She found a way to compete and Mullen just blew up on the court."

Efforts like that throughout her career are why Barkley will miss Odenbaugh.

"There's nobody I wanted to coach against more than Odie," Barkley said. "She competes and that's why her kids compete, one of the reasons. That's what you want. We had some classic matches against each other."

While she's going out a winner, she's not leaving the cupboard bare, not by a long shot, with plenty of returning talent.

"The program is in a really healthy spot right now," she said. "We had three seniors on our roster last year, they're going to be really hard to replace. But we've got a really talented core of sophomores and freshmen. I want my successor to be successful. I don't want that person to have to rebuild the program."

Though it's been less than a week since making the announcement, Odenbaugh already feels the effects.

"It hits me every day," she said. "I know I'm going to miss it. But even more, I'm going to miss the special relationships you forge with your athletes."