RED WING — Nikki Roschen has had a hand in the Red Wing volleyball program for over 20 years. She’s coached everything from middle school to junior varsity to youth programs. Now she’s ready to challenge herself on a new goal — taking the helm as the head volleyball coach for the Red Wing varsity volleyball team.

Roschen, a 1990 Red Wing graduate, had her start in the volleyball program in 1999 and worked her way up to an assistant junior varsity coach under Neal Newman when he was the head coach. She said it was Newman who inspired and ignited her passion in the sport in the '80s when she played varsity.

“My number one goal is to instill a lot of passion for Red Wing volleyball as a program,” Roschen said. “And that would be for anyone involved — athletes, parents, spectators, coaches, other students. I think that volleyball has that potential to unite the school and the fans.”

To accomplish that feat, she wants to start small. She hopes to increase the win total this next year, but more specifically, she wants to see the team win more sets. In turn, she thinks that will naturally increase the team’s win total.

Pointing to last year as an example, Roschen said she was excited about the potential shown during a hard-fought section matchup against Lake City. The Wingers took the match 3-2, one of only two matches that went five sets last year.

In the past three seasons, Red Wing has gone 31-56. Of those 87 matches, 53 of them were sweeps ending in either two or three sets. Only 18 during that time span were won or lost in the final set. While Roschen doesn’t necessarily want each match to go the full length, she hopes in the past instances where Red Wing would drop a match in three sets, the team can push the match to four or five sets before it’s decided.

“In the section, there are a lot of powerhouses” challenging the Wingers, Roschen said. “But they really showed their potential at times and I’m hopeful to improve upon our record.”

The improvement will begin this summer on the practice court. Although indoor practices will be able to resume, Roschen said there will still need to be coronavirus-related precautions in place. That means that this summer’s volleyball camp may end up focusing more on the fundamentals and building team chemistry.

There will also only be a summer program for those in 9th-12th grades to keep numbers down to better adhere to social distancing guidelines. Roschen said she plans to include a lot of passing and serving drills with some live game situations sprinkled in since scrimmages will be difficult to hold.

Roschen said she doesn’t expect the summer program changes to slow down the progress she hopes to make, however.

“A lot of these kids I know they’re out in their yards bumping the ball back and forth. I know there’s friend groups getting together and going to Bay Point,” she said. “There’s a lot we can do without structured, organized volleyball.”

Roschen’s final goal for the program is to create excitement for the sport at younger ages. She said that she coached a little bit of basketball and implemented a little buddy program. The purpose was to partner older players with younger ones. They would send cards to each other and create a culture of excitement for the program at a young age.

Roschen said the “mentor program” allowed younger athletes to watch the older ones and how they would prepare and perform.

“Volleyball is unique, it’s difficult until you get older,” Roschen said. “I definitely want to reach out to some of those younger-aged programs whether it be through Community Ed or the YMCA, just to get some excitement going that way.

“There’s been some promising things happening in the last few years but I’d just really like to kind of get Red Wing volleyball back on the map with everybody being really excited about it having a lot of passion for it.”