She thought she nailed the first interview, and was even more confident after the second. Still, Emily Stone was caught a little off guard when she received the big phone call from Ashland High athletics director Karl Kemper.

She thought she nailed the first interview, and was even more confident after the second. Still, Emily Stone was caught a little off guard when she received the big phone call from Ashland High athletics director Karl Kemper.

After Stone picked up, the voice on the other end said, "What do you want more than anything else in the world?" Stone answered: "To coach the Ashland High volleyball team," and that's when Kemper let the former Grizzly know that her dream was about to come true.

At that, Stone spontaneously unleashed some of the passion that not so long ago helped make her an all-star defensive specialist for the Grizzlies, and later an ideal candidate to coach them.

"I screamed," she said, laughing. "And then my dad came in the room."

Stone, 23, takes over a program that consistently ranks among the best in the state, having racked up three straight top-four finishes and a state title in 2005. Of course, Stone knows all about that tradition. She spent roughly half her high school playing days diving for digs before graduating in 2004, leaving behind a legacy of sore knees, high fives and, above all, winning.

Now, Stone hopes to continue that tradition by teaching the next generation of AHS volleyball players what it means to be a Grizzly.

"When I was playing, I always was interested in the idea of coaching, and being able to parallel life skills with a sport is such an amazing way to coach anyone," said Stone, who went on to play for Southern Oregon University, leading the Raiders in digs in 2006 and 2007. "If I am able to help these girls see themselves and push themselves in a different way, then I will put myself in a position to do that no matter how much of a time commitment it requires of me."

Though young, Stone has managed to build an impressive resume. She started coaching in 2004 at the U14 club level and moved up from there. In all, Stone has five years of club coaching experience, most recently as the U16 power league coach for the Southern Oregon Volleyball Club.

That experience has helped Stone learn to adapt to different players who don't necessarily respond to the same coaching techniques that helped shape her own game. Adjusting to each player's style while simultaneously turning a group of unique personalities into a cohesive unit will require patience and understanding, Stone said.

"Being aggressive as a player, there are different consequences on the court versus being aggressive as a coach," she said. "You have to have 12 girls on a team, and they're not all going to understand the same coaching style, so learning the language of the girls will be one of my biggest challenges."

Luckily, Stone has already gone through a crash course on how to bring a team together courtesy of Josh Rohlfing, the former AHS coach and current SOU head man who led the Grizzlies to the big-school Class 4A state title in 2005 before taking over the Raiders in 2007.

After learning of Stone's new job, Rohlfing made himself available as a resource.

"You can't get a better mentor than Josh, as a friend, as a coach, as a human being," Stone said.

Stone's quest to keep the Grizz volleyball machine humming is already in full swing. The players are participating in open-gym workouts, and weight training is next on the agenda. The Grizz volleyball camp will be held in late August.

Stone's big-picture plans revolve around potential future Grizzlies, Ashland middle schoolers who are still in the process of deciding whether or not they want to commit to volleyball through their high school years. Stone can help them make that decision, she said, by showing them exactly what to expect at the next level.

That's for later on down the road, though. For now, Stone is still pinching herself, relishing the opportunity to rejoin a family she sort of left — but sort of didn't — six years ago.

"Bringing the community together is one of my favorite things about Ashland High volleyball," Stone said. "It's a community event, and it's a time to be able to represent Ashland, and Ashland High, in a positive way.

"The tradition of success is one of the incredible things about Ashland volleyball, and it's something that I plan on continuing."

Tidings sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-482-3456 x224, or at jzavala@dailytidings.com