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Howell alum picked to take over Vikings volleyball program

Former SLU and Francis Howell volleyball standout Danielle Rygelski will take over the Vikings volleyball program this fall. [Submitted photo]

Francis Howell was home for alum Danielle Rygelski. Even five years after graduation, the school has remained in her heart.

On March 14, the district officially welcomed Rygelski back home by approving her as the Vikings new head varsity volleyball coach.

For the 23-year old Rygelski, Howell was the only place where the former Viking wanted to be a head coach.

“I am so excited, I can not wait,” Rygelski said. “I helped out, not last year but the year before last, as a volunteer assistant and I loved it.”

During her days playing on the court, Rygelski set the Vikings kill record with 1,074 kills and helped lead Howell to two state tournament appearances.

In college, Rygelski excelled and had a superb career to St. Louis University. By 2013, she was named Atlantic 10 conference rookie of the year. Rygelski set a single-season kills record in the Atlantic 10 conference with 88 in 2016. She also left a mark on SLU’s program by finishing second all-time with 2000 kills, 190 aces and 1000 digs.

Rygelski felt that her recent court experience made her a good fit for Howell and that it will help her relate to her new players.

“I really think because of how young I am and how fresh I am kind of out of the volleyball world, it gives the girls a little bit of reality of what they could have in a college career,” Rygelski said. “I think my knowledge of the game is pretty fresh and I think that will give them a really different perspective on the game.”

Sean Erwin, the Vikings athletic director, said that Rygelski was the right fit and stood above a strong group of applicants for the job.

“I’m excited to not only have a great coach to lead the program, but also a great person and leader that will grow the young ladies in our program both on and off the court,” Erwin said. “Her storied playing background combined with her current coaching and ability to lead is going to help grow the program and take it to the next level.”

Rygelski has coached as an assistant with the Rockwood Thunder club the past two years and also spent last year coaching under Shane Weber at Villa Duchesne. She initially planned on following Weber to Incarnate Word to join his staff, but when the job with Howell opened, her plans changed after some consideration.

“I was going to follow him over to Incarnate, but this opportunity became open and I had to take it,” Rygelski said.

Rygelski is determined to maintain Howell’s status as one of the top programs in the area and the state.

“Back when we were a team, we were a team that you didn’t want to come across at a crucial moment,” Rygelski said. “We were someone people didn’t want to play when times got tight and tough. I want that to be the label that Howell has again, and have this be that team that is a force to be reckoned with.”

Rygelski is taking over for Molly Wilson, who led the Vikings to 28 wins and a state quarterfinal berth last season. Stacy Smith led the team the previous two seasons. Smith coached Howell to the 2016 state championship match.

Long term stability is the goal that Rygleski intends to have with the Vikings going forward.

“Yes, it is and it is definitely where I want to be for a long time and I want the girls to know that and that I’m gonna stay and I’m dedicated to making the program where I think it can be,” Rygleski said.

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