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Prep volleyball: Claridades among coaches making noise

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston volleyball Coach Paul Claridades stood out in the crowd in his bright pink shirt Tuesday night.

Claridades, along with the rest of his South Charleston players and coaching staff, hosted a Pink Out volleyball tri-match with Winfield and St. Albans to help raise money during Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Winfield (25-3-3), one of the top teams in the state, was the big winner, defeating SC 25-14, 25-21 and St. Albans 25-11, 25-20. To go along with raising money for the cause, the Black Eagles salvaged a match split, defeating the Red Dragons 25-21, 25-16.

"I have no problems wearing pink, especially for October," Claridades said. "I'm used to pink, especially with five sisters. South Charleston has a proud history of supporting breast cancer awareness."

"It's amazing to be a part of something like this," South Charleston senior middle hitter Meredith Lauerman said. "I really like the fact our school is a part of something so special."

The Black Eagles made it to the volleyball State Tournament last year, but in an effort to get back this season, were without a coach with the school year approaching.

That's when the 52-year old Claridades - who coached the Black Eagles in 1987 but hadn't coached at the high school level since, stepped up to the plate.

"I had been out of it for 20-plus years," Claridades said. "There was a need for a coach here. I did not want to them lose that momentum of going to the State Tournament. There is a strong presence here and I wanted to keep that going on for them."

Despite not coaching high school, Claridades has been involved with the sport, co-founding the Charleston Volleyball Club in 2002 along with one of his counterparts on Tuesday night, Winfield Coach Paul Chinuntdet.

"We started the club with the idea of raising the level of volleyball in high schools to match the surrounding states that were head and shoulders above us," Claridades said. "We wanted to change the volleyball culture. Now after 10 years, we are proud to say we have 40 scholarship members."

Lauerman is glad to have Claridades and his 35 years of coaching experience leading the team.

"Paul brings a lot of experience to the team," Lauerman said. "It really helps. I've had a lot of great coaches in the past but he is one of the most experienced. He gives me great advice. It's going great."

While Claridades is in his first year as the SC coach, his other opponent on Tuesday night, St. Albans, also has a first year coach in Sarah Bowlin.

Bowlin has a much different coaching resume than Claridades, being 30 years younger at age 22. She played volleyball at Riverside and also a season at West Virginia State University before graduating in May.

Despite being in her first year coaching anywhere and with a very inexperienced team of 12 sophomores, no juniors, and just one senior in Brianna Clark, Bowlin already has gotten a lot out of the Red Dragons (11-12-1).

"I always knew I wanted to coach, I just didn't know I would do it this soon," Bowlin said. "With so many young players, I was nervous at first. It's a challenge being so young and my first year.

"Its worth it. I really enjoy it and glad I did. I look forward to working with the girls every day and seeing what we can do. They have showed me they can do it. The wins are coming and in a couple years, we will be a very strong team with so many sophomores now. I can't wait."

The St. Albans players are certainly happy to have Bowlin on board coaching the team.

"She has been awesome and has done a really great job," St. Albans standout sophomore setter Maura James said. "She can relate to our problems. She has been there, recently. Her experiences relate to our experiences very well. We have so much potential."


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