Paris McFall has always wanted to be a high school head volleyball coach.

Paris McFall, the new head girls volleyball coach at Evanston Township High School. Credit: MOD club team

For his first job at the helm, he’s taking on a program that has suffered through years of losing.

Named the new head girls coach at Evanston Township High School, McFall is out to change the culture for a Wildkit program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2014 and hasn’t been very competitive in one of the toughest conferences in Illinois, the Central Suburban League.

The process for change has already begun and the Wildkits open their 2022 schedule on Monday, Aug. 22, at home against Maine East.

McFall is currently the boys volleyball director at the Northbrook-based MOD club team and has served as an assistant coach at Loyola Academy for the past three seasons. A former All-American player himself at Robert Morris University, he knows what it takes to win.

Now he’ll see if the Kit players will buy into his ideas and reverse that losing trend. Evanston hasn’t won a conference championship since 1987.

“We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard than in the past here,” McFall said. “I want to make sure they up their level of accomplishment and we’re going to force them to understand what it means to perform at a higher level.

“We have to compete better and give ourselves a chance to win. I’ve seen a little bit of complacency with the mediocrity in the program – and that has to change.”

To that end, McFall promoted four sophomores to the varsity roster, which also includes four juniors and six seniors. He believes that more competition in practice will bring out the best in every player, and said that no one is guaranteed playing time based on what happened last year.

“I have no allegiances to any of them, so I want them trying to push for positions every single day in practice,” he said. “I brought up those sophomores [Gillian Colledge, Kyle O’Connor, Sofie Lindroth, Lina Hauser] to make sure we have competition every day. That could be a potential wakeup call for the seniors, because two or three of those sophomores have the potential to start for us.”

McFall adopted the slogan HITS that new Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus is using for the pro team – Hustle, Intensity, Teachability and (playing) Smart. “We want our girls to embody all of that,” said the ETHS coach. “I’ve never shied away from a challenge. I think other schools will overlook us, and I’m hoping to catch some of them sleeping – and change the narrative here.”

Seniors Claire Henthorn (libero) and Maya Valentine (setter) are returning starters and Sophie Lechleitner has shown she can be a go-to hitter when the Wildkits are stuck on offense. McFall has been particularly impressed by Henthorn’s play in preseason training camp.

“Claire Henthorn is a phenomenal leader by example,” he said. “We try to ace her all the time in practice, and it’s very hard. Sophie Lechleitner has been their go-to hitter in the past, she has a lot of athleticism. When we get her reaching and hitting at her peak [jump] instead of her chest, she can really be a difference-maker for us.”

Middle hitter Meg Houseworth is another player who could make an impact. Also battling for playing time are seniors Carter Aaron and Jessica Sehgal, and juniors Emma Philibert, Margot Van Nice, Isa De Los Reyes, and Annika Stewart.

“I think we have a lot of diamonds in the rough. We have the athletes – that’s not a problem,” McFall said. “Right now we’re just trying to break a lot of bad habits.

“We might struggle at the beginning of the season, but I think we’ll hit our stride in the middle of the season.”  

Leave a comment

The RoundTable will try to post comments within a few hours, but there may be a longer delay at times. Comments containing mean-spirited, libelous or ad hominem attacks will not be posted. Your full name and email is required. We do not post anonymous comments. Your e-mail will not be posted.

Your email address will not be published.