Hart alumnus Loy Mueller was named head coach of Hart boys volleyball on Friday, taking over a team that claimed its first-ever playoff win in program history and made its first playoff run since the 2013 season.
“It kind of feels surreal coming back to where I graduated from and where I played,” Mueller told The Signal on Wednesday. “I just want to help the program out as much as I can and give back to the school that taught me so much.”
Mueller will succeed Jeannie Brauninger, who has been the varsity boys coach since the 2016 season. Compiling a record of 26-43-3 over the past three seasons, Brauninger rebuilt a Hart boys varsity team that went 1-17-2 overall and winless in league in her first year. In 2017, the Indians won nine more games than the previous year, defeating Foothill League schools Canyon and Golden Valley in the process.
Brauninger, who stepped down citing personal reasons, guided the Indians to a 15-15-1 overall record and 5-5 in Foothill League record in their most recent season.
“We are really excited,” said Hart athletic director Linda Peckham. “(Jeannie is) handing off a much stronger program than when she took over three years ago. She has really elevated the program and the helped the kids’ play get to a higher level.”
Mueller is currently a first-year English teach at Hart and prioritizes both academics and athletics.
“I always emphasize the importance in education and how it stands over everything,” Mueller said. “Being a teacher on campus really helps me keep an eye on my players’ success and I will constantly be available to help and make sure everyone is on track and on task in the classroom.”
Serving as Hart girls junior varsity coach for the past season, Mueller has coached throughout the Foothill League, including the Canyon girls junior varsity for two years prior to coming to Hart.
Playing for and coaching alongside the Indians current girls varsity head coach Mary Irilian, Mueller has picked up some tips from his coach and now coworker along the years.
“How to establish relationships and rapport with the athletes, but most importantly what a successful program looks like year in and year out,” Mueller said of what he’s learned. “She taught me skills in life that I took with me and hopefully I can do the same and pass on the information to the boys in the program.”
This past season, the Indians made it to the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 Boys Volleyball playoffs as a wild-card team. Defeating Millikan in a play-in match, the Indians defeated Hillcrest in the first round 3-1, but were swept by eventual champions Orange Lutheran in the second round.
Hoping to keep the program at an elevated level and continue the program’s recent success, Mueller envisions a competitive environment where players push each other to excel in all competitions.
“I was fortunate enough to coach Loy when he was in high school, so it really is full circle for him,” said Hart varsity girls volleyball coach Mary Irilian. “Loy is passionate about the sport and helping the kids so those two qualities alone will make him great for the program. Starting any program is hard, but the boys will see his caring and competitive nature and will buy in.”