Iron Horses’ volleyball coach Jay Watterworth scores 200th career win
On Sept. 10, Philip Simmons High School volleyball coach Jay Watterworth paused for a picture with his team to celebrate a personal milestone. His team had just defeated Stall 3-0 to give him 200 career coaching victories, and it was time to smile for the camera.
The following night, Watterworth took his first step toward 300 as the Iron Horses topped Georgetown 3-0.
“It was a special moment,” Watterworth said of becoming Mr. 200. “But this just wasn’t about me. It was about the players as well. We celebrated together.”
Watterworth, who turned 35 over the summer, will tell you this isn’t just about his time at Philip Simmons. He graduated from Goose Creek High School in 2002 and began his coaching career as the Gator’s main man on the volleyball court.
He made a decision early in his career at Goose Creek that still pays big dividends.
“I tried to grow and learn as a (volleyball) coach,” Watterworth said. “I also coached soccer at Goose Creek. I played soccer when I was in school, but I realized that the only way volleyball would take off is by focusing on volleyball. I hated giving up the soccer coaching duties, but I talked to the athletic director, and made my decision.”
The Gators qualified for the playoffs seven times during his tenure. He said he was fortunate because the school had some great softball and basketball players who transitioned to volleyball court.
He gained invaluable experience coaching club volleyball and in 2013, he was recognized for his success by being named to coach the North South All Star Volleyball Matches at Erskine College.
At Philip Simmons, Watterworth was named the first coach of the sport, and welcomed players who already had volleyball experience. But the players were very young as Watterworth fielded teams that included numerous seventh- and eighth-graders who had to go up against teams that had juniors and seniors.
The Iron Horses posted a 9-14 record in 2017, their first season, and followed that up with a 17-9 record last fall, reaching the playoffs, finishing tied for second in Region 6-AA.
This year, the team was 7-3-1 heading into a showdown on Sept. 17 against defending region champ Oceanside Collegiate Academy.
Watterworth isn’t conceding the region title to Oceanside Collegiate, but he said, “Oceanside Collegiate is the class of Class AA, and we’re in the same region. Oceanside is tough to beat, but we’re not shying from them. We are ready for that challenge.”
The varsity team is still very young, as is the junior varsity team. The jayvee squad started its season with five triumphs in five matches.
The varsity team has two talented outside hitters – Alex Bobey and Maya Gerding. Gerding gives the Iron Horses a strong physical presence on the court.
Emma Ethridge is only a freshman, but has a key role as the team’s setter. Julia Wood anchors the defense as the libero.
“We have some players who have been with me since Day 1,” Watterworth said. “They know what I expect. It will be exciting to grow with them and see what they do in the five years they’ve been with the program.”