Megan Herrick was worried about how she would match the standard set by Stephanie Whitehead.
Whitehead directed the Fulton Lady Hornets volleyball team to its first-ever district championship and subsequent appearance in the state playoffs in 2009, before departing and putting the program in Herrick's hands.
So far, Herrick and the Lady Hornets are stacking up fine.
Top-seeded Fulton captured the Class 3, District 9 title late Wednesday night with a 25-18, 25-18 win over No. 2 Boonville, the Lady Hornets' North Central Missouri Conference rival. Fulton reached the championship earlier Wednesday night by downing No. 4 Eldon 25-18 and 25-7.
"This feels so good and the girls are so excited," Herrick said Thursday afternoon. "I'm thrilled that we went and did the job we wanted to do. That's what we've been going for all season and it finally paid off."
The title triumph brought a sense of both relief and satisfaction for Herrick, who had spent five years as Whitehead's assistant and junior varsity coach.
"I was nervous that I was not going to be able to fulfill the role (of head coach)," Herrick said. "Those are big shoes to fill because Stephanie Whitehead turned the program around. I didn't have her knowledge base; I learned everything I know from her.
"It was nice to be her understudy. It's been a wonderful season, and I have the girls and parents to thank for that. It's been a team effort, in every sense of the word."
The Lady Hornets will now host Class 3 sectional and quarterfinal matches Saturday at Roger D. Davis Gymnasium. Fulton (27-8) faces Holden (29-6-2) in the first sectional match at 3 p.m., while Logan-Rogersville (30-3-3) clashes with Carl Junction (22-9-4) at 4:30.
The winners will then meet in a quarterfinal match at 6 p.m., with the chance to advance to the final four Nov. 5-6 in Kansas City.
"We're so excited for the home-court advantage," Herrick said. "It'll be nice to have our fan base there; the girls will be comfortable."
Senior outside hitter Haley Clark tallied 15 kills Wednesday night to pace the Lady Hornets in their championship victory over Boonville. Fulton swept both of its meetings with the Lady Pirates during the regular season, en route to sharing the NCMC title with Hannibal.
"Boonville has three very powerful hitters and a good libero, so it was hard to find holes on the court and get past their block," Herrick said. "Once we got on a run, we were relentless."
Sophomore setter Melissa Hoerber also provided 22 assists and 10 digs for the Lady Hornets, while senior outside hitter Meghan Davis contributed five kills and nine digs.
Clark topped Fulton with seven kills in the semifinal win over Eldon, while Wefenstette added 15 digs and Hoerber chipped in with 10 assists. Senior defensive specialist Keeley Wisdom supplied five aces.
"Our serve-receive and defense really struggled in the first game, but I think that was because the girls were so pumped up," Herrick said. "I have to hand it to our hitters, they kept attacking; essentially, that won us the game.
"The girls finally calmed down and found control."
Clark and Hoerber were both named to the all-district first team, while Davis, Wefenstette and junior middle hitter Corri Hamilton were second-team selections.
Herrick had a chance to study game film of Holden on Thursday afternoon.
"They look to be a team comparable to us - similar hitters, similar defense," she said. "They're a faster team, but then we have some strengths that they don't have.
"Their block looks unstoppable. We'll have to cover, keep attacking and never let up."