By Nick Giannandrea
College of the Sequoias rewarded one of its own with the school's first full-time women's volleyball coaching position in nearly 30 years.
Kim Rix, a former Giant who helped elevate the program back to Northern California prominence during five seasons as a walk-on coach, has been selected to fill a newly created faculty position.
COS hasn't had a full-time women's volleyball coach since Gene Hofer in 1990.
"I truly am beyond excited and grateful," said Rix, whose maiden name was Steele when she played for the Giants in 2000 and 2001. "I know there were some amazing coaches who applied, and I'm humbled to have been chosen. The past five years have been so challenging and rewarding, and I hope to continue our success."
Rix led the Giants to their fourth straight playoff appearance last season, when they finished 21-9 overall, 14-4 in the Central Valley Conference and won a Northern California Regional play-in match against Merced before losing to Cabrillo in the first round.
It was COS' first season with at least 20 wins since it went 20-4 in 2004.
"We had a phenomenal pool of candidates, but Kim has done a great job since she's been here," Giants athletic director Brent Davis said. "She laid out her vision of how to keep things moving forward, and the (hiring) committee was really impressed with her vision.
"I'm really excited for her and her family. She's a phenomenal person and coach. We're looking forward to watching this volleyball program grow under her tutelage."
Rix is 73-39 overall and 56-22 in conference play since taking over in 2014 after serving four seasons as a Giants' assistant. COS had reached the postseason only once in the previous six seasons before Rix's elevation to head coach.
"It's been really fun building this program," said Rix, who is assisted by Aaron Gardner and Lindsey Hall. "The greatest thing about coaching at COS is the support from my boss Brent (Davis) and all the administrators. It makes the job a lot easier when you have people backing you up and supporting your program."
Rix's resume also includes four years as the head coach at her alma mater Lemoore High, where she went 97-40-3 overall and 38-10 in the West Yosemite League while winning two titles. Her 2006 team reached the Central Section Division II final.
She stepped down as coach at Lemoore following the 2009 season to become a stay-at-home mother, first to son Chris, who is now 8; and then to sons Andrew, William and Jonathan, now ages 6, 4 and 2, respectively.
But now that her husband of nearly 15 years, Adam, a former COS football player, is in a new job that allows him to be home more, and with the continued support of her parents Don and Marilyn Steele and in-laws Ken and Donna Rix, Rix was in position to return to full time work.
"The timing couldn't have been more perfect," Rix said. "When the job opened up in December, I thought 'I can't lose this job. This is my dream. These are my girls. This is my program.' When I got the job, it was a sigh of relief and a thrill."
Rix potentially will return 12 players from last season, including kills leader Christa Pilgrim (Mission Oak), assists leader Sydney Guinn (Exeter) and digs leader Alexis Carmona (Madera) from a roster comprised entirely of players from Madera to the north and Tehachapi to the south.
"She's a tireless recruiter and has done a great job in Tulare and Kings counties finding the best student athletes," Davis said. "She's really elevated our volleyball program."
Rix was a middle blocker on COS' 2001 team that reached the state final eight. She moved on to play at what was then called Cal State Hayward before the four-year university changed its name to Cal State East Bay.
She said it's her goal to help others who want to travel a similar path and use community college as a stepping-stone to a four-year college.
"I would have never made (Cal State Hayward) as a freshman going in," Rix said. "But after two years at COS, I was able to make that team. I want to help others get to where they want to go, too."