Faith Watson spent last season on a familiar sideline, albeit in a less familiar role.
The former Oregon volleyball standout served as assistant coach to Christy Sitze in 2012, returning to her alma mater after a successful playing career at Lewis University.
Little did she know that her lifelong dream of becoming a high school head coach would be fulfilled so soon.
Watson was named Oregon's varsity coach this week, replacing Sitze, who resigned from her second stint as Hawks' coach to take the head coaching job at Rockford University.
"I didn't picture this happening anytime soon; I thought I'd take this next step in 4 or 5 years," Watson said Wednesday, following the Hawks' first practice of the season. "It's a little bittersweet taking over for Christy, but her new position at Rockford University is something she's been dreaming about forever.
"I'm super excited for her, and I also see us doing great things this year and continuing the legacy that she built here."
The shoes Watson is filling are good sized. Sitze coached at Oregon from 2002-07 and 2010-12, leading the Hawks to five straight Big Northern Conference titles (2003-07), eight regional championships (2002-07, '10, '12), four sectional finals (2004-05, '07, '12) and a sectional title in 2006.
Watson was a senior co-captain on that 36-4 supersectional qualifier. The 4-year varsity player was a multiple all-conference and SVM all-area selection, and the Hawks won a conference and regional title each of her four seasons.
After high school, Watson continued her volleyball career at Lewis, where she was named team captain as a senior while earning her B.S. in education.
"I wasn't going to take any job unless the program I built [at Oregon] would be in good hands," Sitze said, "and I can't think of anybody better than Faith to take it over. She was an impact player in high school, had 4 years of experience as a D-II scholarship athlete, and knows what this program is all about.
"She and I would always find ourselves saying the same things at the same time as coaches, and I feel like she's capable of coaching the girls to their potential and helping them reach their goals."
Last year, Oregon won a regional crown and finished the season 27-12-1 – and the Hawks lost just two players from that squad.
"I know many – if not all – the girls were upset that Christy is leaving," Watson said, "but I've worked with them and they know me, so I think the transition will be easy.
"No big change is fun for anybody, and it will take time. I pretty much talk like Christy, and I think once the girls start to view me a little differently – it's more serious now with me, not just having fun like when I was an assistant – things will really start to flow."
Meanwhile, Sitze takes over a Rockford team that missed the postseason a year ago and has hopes of returning there in 2013.
It was a whirlwind courtship, as Rockford's coach stepped down less than a month ago for personal reasons. Not only was Sitze excited about the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level, but she was even happier that it was someplace close to her high-school ties in the area.
"It just kind of came up pretty quickly and progressed pretty quickly," said Sitze, who first interviewed for the job a week ago Thursday. "I really enjoyed their philosophy and how they take care of their students and athletes. It was a good fit for me and for them.
"I also think it's great being so close to the area where I was coaching high school volleyball and running my [Power Up] club team. I know a lot of the players and talent in the area, and I feel like I know what they're going through and what they'll be looking for in the future at the next level. I think that will be a nice thing to have as things move along at Rockford."
High school: Oregon, class of 2007
College: Lewis University, class of 2010
Experience: B.S. in education, 1 year as Oregon assistant coach (2012)
FYI: Senior co-captain on Hawks' 36-4 sectional title team in 2006. … Won BNC and regional titles in every one of her 4 varsity seasons at Oregon. … Named captain of the Lewis squad as a senior.