Mindy Wilmes' collegiate volleyball career might not have lasted as long as she once expected, but she achieved success beyond any reasonable imaginations.
Wilmes, a 2015 Canby High graduate, finished her college career with an 80-5 overall record, won a national championship with College of Southern Idaho in 2015 and went undefeated during the regular season in her one season at Linn Benton Community College. Now, she'll take her winning attitude and apply it to coaching. Wilmes will serve as a volunteer assistant coach for Linn-Benton while completing her degree at Linn Benton and Oregon State University.
By the end of her senior high school volleyball season, in which she earned First Team All-League honors as a member of the Canby High volleyball team, Wilmes hadn't yet decided which college she would attend and was still gauging interest from prospective colleges. In May of 2015, at the tail end of the recruiting process, Wilmes finally signed with College of Southern Idaho. But as one of the last and lesser priority recruits, Wilmes knew she likely wouldn't see the court extensively her freshman season.
Although that notion proved accurate, she still contributed to the team's 11th national title in other ways. Seeing the game from a different vantage point than those on the court, Wilmes often provided teammates with pointers and informed them about consistently open holes on the court.
"You're on that bench but you're a big asset to your team's success," Wilmes said.
In Wilmes' freshman season, College of Southern Idaho accumulated a 35-3 overall record and came from behind to defeat Western Nebraska Community College in the National Junior College Athletic Association championship match to capture the program's 11th national title.
"It was a very surreal moment. 'Did this just happen?' As game five went on we were on a roll, we're tearing up saying 'We're going to win this national championship.' Coach told us all year about what it feels like and brought in players to talk to us. Now we can go back one day and tell players about our team. I have goose bumps thinking about it. It's an indescribable moment that you can cherish forever," Wilmes said.
Wilmes made close friendships her freshman year and enjoyed her time in Idaho. But she often felt homesick and wanted to move closer to home.
So she transferred to another highly successful program – Linn Benton.
And her sophomore year she didn't just experience team success but also individual success. Linn-Benton went 14-0 in league-play and won an astounding 41 consecutive matches to start the season while Wilmes finished second on the team with 2.88 kills per game and a kill percentage of .268. Linn-Benton lost to Lower Columbia in the Northwest Athletic Conference championship match.
After the season, Wilmes had a tough decision to make. Should she explore transferring to a four-year program or should she quit volleyball and focus on earning her degree? In the end, she found a happy medium – choosing to coach at Linn Benton while also working toward graduating with a degree in elementary school teaching and a minor in special education.
"It was hard at first because I didn't want to let go. It's a once in a lifetime chance to play in college. As it went on I'm very happy with the decision I've made. I don't regret it. I have a great opportunity to be a part of a program in a different way," Wilmes said.
As a coach, Wilmes will analyze the game from the bench, take stats and practice with players. And through her two ridiculously successful seasons, she understands the components of a well-functioning team.
"The main thing is the players have to mesh well. The chemistry on the court has to be there. You can't have drama going on. That does get dragged onto the court. You try to leave it out but it's bound to happen," Wilmes said.
She expects coaching players who were once her teammates just a few months ago to be weird at first but that it will become normal eventually.
"It will be very weird but it's an adjustment. We'll work through it. I have great relationships with the girls that are returning. They are some of my best friends," she said.
Along with being an aspiring elementary school teacher, Wilmes is considering becoming a high school volleyball coach one day. This season, she'll experience her first test run to see what coaching is like.
"I just want to be learning everything I can from Jaime (Linn-Benton's head coach). She's a great coach," Wilmes said. "It will be a big adjustment sitting on the bench as a coach. It's a great opportunity to put something under my belt if I ever wanted to be a coach at a high school and it's a great opportunity to be a part of the sport I still love."