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VOLLEYBALL

Prep Volleyball: Dimond coach Kim Lauwers’ legacy hard to ignore as state tournament arrives

by | Nov 8, 2023 | Cover Story, Prep Spotlight, Volleyball

Coach Kim Lauwers has racked up 660 wins and 11 state titles during her 26-year reign at Dimond. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Under most circumstances during her lengthy coaching career, Kim Lauwers would gleefully welcome a regular-season match on a September Friday night.

Having spent most of her life on or around a volleyball court, where else might she want to be?

“Oh, I was completely the mother of the groom (that weekend),” Lauwers said, referring to the wedding festivities for oldest son, Colton. “We had a bunch of relatives up from Illinois and everything was amazing.

“Still, quite a few people couldn’t believe I missed that match. I’ve always wanted to be counted on to not miss anything.”

The Dimond High volleyball team and the remainder of Lauwers’ coaching staff won that earlier Cook Inlet Conference match in five sets versus Eagle River.

With no other joyous, memorable family obligations to tend to, Lauwers has been with the Lynx for every serve, set and spike since. The defending Class 4A champion, Dimond brings a 42-12-1 record into this week’s state championship tournament. Action gets underway Thursday at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The Lynx, who will face Wasilla in the first round of the double-elimination state bracket, earned the CIC’s second of three automatic state berths after losing a decisive if-necessary set to East in last weekend’s conference tournament. Dimond posted five-set victories over both Service and the Thunderbirds before volleyball’s equivalent of overtime came into play.

East earned its first league tournament title since 2006 with a 30-24 set victory.

Dimond players celebrate after a win at last week’s Cook Inlet Conference Tournament. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Lauwers, 58, is enjoying her 26th season as Dimond’s head coach. Of course, that time comes in two stints – 1991 to 1996 and 2005 to the present – as she also coached at UAA for seven seasons and compiled a 106-91 record.

She followed her heart to Alaska more than 30 years ago. Then a graduate assistant at Texas State University, she moved to the hometown of husband Brad, a legendary Dimond and Anchorage coaching figure like his wife who recently retired from the Anchorage School District.

“All because I fell in love,” Kim said with a sheepish laugh. “Back then the dream was to play in the Olympics or coach at (Division I). But Brad’s family was here, and that was the next phase of my life.”

A star high school and college athlete from her home state of Illinois, Kim arrived on the Anchorage scene as something of a player. One nobody knew much about.

“I started playing the adult (volleyball) leagues and tournaments,” she said. “It was funny, (brother-in-law) Calvin and I entered a tournament in the B division.

“I remember receiving a letter soon after that I couldn’t be in that division any longer. The word was out.”

As time wore on, her commitment to coaching grew. Lauwers loved the game, and was especially delighted in teaching other athletes how to excel while playing it.

“Not everyone learns the same, nothing cookie cutter about it,” she said. “I try to mold what I can mold and hope to be successful as I can.”

This season’s Dimond team captured the CIC regular-season championship, despite featuring very little varsity experience. The Lynx lost 10 seniors from the 2022 state title-winning squad all while competition in the conference stiffened from top to bottom.

“What we had was very unknown,” Lauwers said. “But this team has been very coachable and gets along so well. I’ve seen so much growth.”

Coach Kim Lauwers shows love after last year’s state title win. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Regardless how the state tournament turns out this week for Lauwers and the Lynx, the coach’s longevity and run of success should be heralded.

She’s guided Dimond to 660 career wins and 11 of the school’s 16 state crowns dating back to 1972, and five in the last seven seasons.

“Coach Lauwers has been a very effective coach because of the time and energy she puts into the program,” said Alissa Pili, the University of Utah basketball superstar who won four state volleyball state titles before graduating from Dimond in 2019. “She knows how to utilize each player so well.”

Pili is among the best basketball players in the country. She and the Utes are headlining next week’s Great Alaska Shootout, a well-deserved homecoming for one of Lauwers’ many accomplished players.

“She supported me not only as an athlete, but as a person as well,” Pili said of Lauwers’ influence. “She always kept a family atmosphere with our (volleyball) teams.”

Volleyball here has been spoiled to see so many coaches work their craft for hefty amounts of time. Think Virgil Hooe, Jim Dooley, Judy Knecht and others throughout the years.

“I feel like the last one standing,” Lauwers said.

It’s an ever-changing world in prep sports. Transfers move from one team to the next in a matter of days with little or no explanation or public understanding, especially here in Anchorage. Players and families are known to question most every decision, mostly for no other reason than pure selfishness.

It’s fair to wonder why accomplished coaches like Lauwers stick around as long as they do.

“It’s always a year-to-year thing because there are times you feel like you’re not appreciated,” Lauwers said. “Plenty of ups and downs. But I love all the relationships and seeing all these kids grow up to be great people.

“To think I’ve been part of a little moment in their lives. It makes for good memories and so many positive experiences.”

STATE TOURNEY SIDEOUTS
  • Six of the eight programs in the 4A field have accounted for 42 state championships since the first was awarded more than 50 years ago. Dimond leads the way with 16 – the last one a year ago, the first in 1973. Service has claimed 11 – the last in 2004, first in 1974. South captured eight titles since 2005, the last coming in 2021. East has totaled four with the last coming in 1995 and the first in 1975. West Valley won in 1982 and 1985, while Wasilla grabbed its only crown in 2001.
  • The double-elimination 4A tournament is scheduled to end with Saturday’s 5 p.m. title match. But be prepared for another one of those thrill-inducing if-necessary sets to close out the drama.

Story made possible by:

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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