Rust looks to establish foundation, culture for Gwood vball
A local product is returning to her roots in hopes of turning around a once-proud prep program.
Kehau Rust, known previously as Kehau Vegas, will wear the red and black of the Glenwood Springs Demons once again, this time as the head coach of the girl’s varsity volleyball program, becoming the third head coach of the program in the last three years.
Rust, a 2010 graduate of Glenwood Springs, has quite the volleyball experience under her belt. She played at three different colleges (Orange Coast College, University of Hawaii and Kean (N.J.) University) during her collegiate career before holding coaching positions on the Division I and Division II levels at Princeton University and Colorado Mesa University, where she currently holds a coaching position in the spring with the beach volleyball team.
Now, the Glenwood native who started school in Glenwood before transferring to Basalt for a few years, returns to her volleyball roots looking to establish a culture and foundation with a sputtering program that looks to get back to its winning ways.
“I just love everything about Glenwood,” Rust said prior to a recent open gym inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium. “I still know a lot of people here like [athletic director] Craig Denney and [boy’s basketball assistant coach] Norm Bolitho, so I was excited to come back. When I moved back to the area two years ago, I had been looking for a coaching job at the high school level to offset my coaching job at Mesa, so when I saw the Glenwood job become available, it just felt right to me. A lot of our Class of 2010 graduates are still around, so it’s kind of cool to be back around here.”
The Demons are not short on talent by any means, so Rust has a great opportunity in front of her to step into a good situation. But for a group of seniors that will be on their third head coach in three years, the Glenwood graduate is looking to establish a foundation for the program to build on while also hoping to establish a culture for the program, not just for volleyball, but for the entire school when it comes to athletics.
Last season under Dennis Sunderland, who took over for Sarah Ryan, the Demons went 9-16 (4-8 4A Western Slope League), losing seven straight matchups to close the season. With her experience as a player at the collegiate level and her coaching prowess that has spanned across the country, Rust feels that the program is in the perfect situation for her to come in and set up the type of team she wants to run from the outset of the season.
“I feel like it’s a little bit better this way, because I get to construct the program the way that I want it to be and build the culture the way I want it to be, instead of trying to take over a culture somebody already built,” Rust said. “It’s more something I can create and build with this group and with the coaches that I have around me. I feel like we have a strong base here in this group to build anything we want here.”
It’s rare for a coach to want to return to the high school level after tasting success at the collegiate or professional level, which is just what Rust has done with the move back to Glenwood. Granted, she’ll still hold a job with CMU during the spring with beach volleyball, but her main focus for now is re-establishing the high school program at Glenwood, which could be very rewarding for someone who once played on the same court, wore the same colors and competed in the same valley as her current players.
“Coaching college is great, but coaching high school and coaching these girls is so rewarding,” Rust said. “It’s so fun to be able to coach these girls and potentially watch them go on to play at the next level and have them come back to the program and thank us, knowing that we meant so much to them and their development during pivotal years of their athletic lives.”
That special group this fall will consist of at least 11 seniors, which was the number that attended open gym throughout the summer before the start of tryouts Aug. 14. Of those 11 seniors, Mary Fuller, Kassidy Johnson, Tye Wedhorn, Saylor Warren, Cheyanne McLelland and Maddie Bolitho make up the core of that group, but there are other seniors this summer who have emerged as leaders during the first summer under Rust.
“There’s a lot of leadership here,” Rust said. “It’s not just seniors, either. There’s a handful of juniors and sophomores, as well, who show up early, help set up for open gym and welcome the incoming freshmen, so it’s really good to see those players come in and establish the culture that they want around the team.”
With the amount of talent returning this year on the court, Rust is looking to build the culture and foundation for the Demons in her first year, whether that’s how they travel as a team, or how other schools perceive them and making a name as a respectful team.
The new head coach isn’t looking for a set win-loss goal or individual accolades for key players; she’s much more focused on establishing that foundation that should sustain a talented program for years to come.
The Demons will get their first shot at showcasing their talents at home under Rust at the Demon Invitational from Sept. 1-2 inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium.