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RedHawk coaching team expects quick turnaround for IU Northwest volleyball program

Former PUC hoops star Sara Keilman and Morgan Township varsity softball coach Larry Babcock will lead RedHawk spikers in 2011

IU Northwest Volleyball Coach Larry Babcock

IU Northwest File Photo
IU Northwest Volleyball Coach Larry Babcock

New Indiana University Northwest head volleyball coach Sara Keilman is familiar with the Savannah Gymnasium. After all, less than 18 months ago she played a basketball game there, as a member of the Purdue University Calumet Lady Peregrines.
Keilman has since graduated and is now pursuing her master’s degree in communication at PUC. Athletically, however, she has become a bird of a different feather, leaving basketball and the Peregrines for volleyball and the RedHawks.
And, she’s not alone. Keilman’s associate head coach, Larry Babcock, is also her fiancé. The pair took over the RedHawks’ NAIA Division II volleyball program earlier this year following the departure of former head coach Omar Vazquez, who led the squad for five seasons.
“We have such great talent here,” Keilman said. “There is big potential for us to do very well, and we’re going to push the players to do very well.”
Keilman and Babcock are experienced Dunes Volleyball Club coaches who say they’re passionate about the game and excited to be at IU Northwest. They have already picked up four recruits for the coming season, to go along with six returning players, and they expect to field a competitive team in 2011.
“Two of the girls on the team this year – Kristen Kenney and Petra Faught – I’ve coached previously,” Keilman said. “Kristen said something to me about the opening here and told me I should try it. The next day at Dunes practice, Petra said something to him about it, and told him we would do really well here. So we talked about it … and here we are.”   
Though Keilman was a hoops star at PUC, volleyball was the Hammond Morton grad’s first choice for college athletics. She still holds seven volleyball records at Morton, and she was a second-team All-State selection her senior year.
“I know the net very well when it comes to volleyball,” Keilman said. “Volleyball is like my second heart.”
Keilman attended an out-of-state school to play volleyball at an NCAA D-II program but found her experience there to be less than satisfying. So she returned home to play basketball.
But Keilman has coached volleyball in the Dunes Volleyball Club since 2005 and she served as volunteer coach at Hammond Morton for two years while in college. She also coached at Hammond’s Scott Middle School for one year.  
Babcock, a Wheeler High School graduate who played four years of boys’ volleyball there, is also a familiar face in Northwest Indiana. He is currently the head varsity softball coach at Morgan Township High School, and he previously coached JV boys’ volleyball there. He has also coached junior high and/or freshman football at Chesterton and Wheeler, and he coached junior high baseball for his alma mater.
“Sports is my life,” said Babcock, who spent two years as a baseball umpire in the Northern League and has also refereed college football and basketball.
Like Keilman, Babcock is no stranger to the Savannah Gymnasium, having officiated basketball games at IU Northwest.
“To me, it’s all about building a program,” he explained. “I don’t want to go somewhere where a program has already been built. I want to build my own program. To me, this is a university that should compete all the time in volleyball. We want to be at the conference tournament. We want to be in the national tournament. That’s an expectation for this year.”
“We both love to compete, and we have high expectations,” Keilman added. “I see volleyball as a job. You have to be committed, you have to be here on time, and you have to put in the effort. If you don’t put in the effort, you’re not going to get the results that you want.”
As a former Peregrine, Keilman certainly understands the value of playing local rivals, and she and Babcock have scheduled an IU-Purdue Classic for September. Participants will include PUC, Purdue North Central, IU South Bend, and the RedHawks.  
“To bring everybody together and start that little bit of rivalry … it adds a competitive flavor that is sometimes missing because we’re playing Detroit schools or Wisconsin schools,” Babcock said. “So to start that, and start it here, is kind of neat.”
The four new players the RedHawk coaches have secured for the 2011 season are: Ancilla College grad Tristan Hunter and Ancilla transfer Lauren Krempec; and Prairie State College transfers Ashley Zelek and Samantha Mansanarez. They will bring even greater skill and depth to a squad comprised of entirely of sophomores and juniors.  
Babcock said the RedHawk players are taking an active role in the recruitment process, referring their coaches to players with potential.
“That only happens when your players respect what you do and what you’re about,” he said. “That’s how we know they want to succeed, because they’re helping us find players that we may never have known about.”  


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IU Northwest File Photo
IU Northwest Volleyball Coach Sara Keilman