It’s like deja vu, but not really for Eastern New Mexico University volleyball with Sia Poyer taking over as head coach.
Poyer, 45, served as an assistant under Mike Maguire for 14 years before leaving in 2005 to take the head coaching position at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga. In his eight seasons with the Blazers, the team reached the Gulf South Conference tournament five times, and he compiled a record of 129-137.
The American Samoa native is married to Zia basketball and volleyball standout Jennifer (Goble) Poyer, and holds both an undergraduate and master’s degree from ENMU.
Q: At Valdosta State, you had established a program, and you were coaching in one of Division II’s most well-known college sports programs. What was the motivation to come back to a smaller school and smaller community after so long away?
A: Coming back and getting a chance to coach my alma mater. Of course, having worked here before before I moved on to VSU ... as a former coach, that was a big thing.
It wasn’t just for me. It was also for my family, and Jennifer having a place here. We basically grew up here. We got our first jobs here as working adults. That had something to do with it too.
There’s just the sense of family over here. I knew so many people. When I came down with Jennifer for her (Lone Star Conference Hall of Honor) induction, it was amazing and so overwhelming. It felt like we never left with the number of friends, people we knew of all ages who were so happy just to see us back.
It was a great experience. It really felt like I was coming back home.
Q: How has the college, and perhaps the community, changed since you departed?
A: I’ve only been here about a week, but it’s weird not seeing Lincoln Hall any more. That was my home for so long. They’ve got the San Juan Apartments up there, and De Baca Hall isn’t there anymore. There are changes with Greyhound Arena; you don’t have the white scenery. Dr. (Athletic Director Jeff) Geisser has done a good job of making really nice changes.
You can see a little bit throughout the campus. There have been a few more new houses, different restaurants. There’s still road construction. It looks different, but it feels the same.
Q: What stayed the same?
A: That smell of money is still there (laughs); that aroma of money. That eastern New Mexico wind, I got a little taste of it today when I was walking around.
Q: After 14 years as an asisstant for the volleyball program, the natural feeling around Portales was that Sia Poyer would eventually take over the program for Mike Maguire.
Technically, that did happen, but there was an eight-year stretch at Valdosta and two coaching changes at ENMU. How did Valdosta end up taking place back in 2005?
A: I wanted to make the change after being an assistant for so long. That job opened up, and when you go from an assistant to a head coach, you can’t be too picky. Not taking anything at all away from Valdosta State, but at the time I knew very little about the program. At the time, that wasn’t going to happen here at Eastern. Eight years later, I think it made me a better coach. My time down at Valdosta State, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. They were struggling at the time and there was no place to go but up. I was able to help them get to where they are now.
At the time? Yes, I wanted to be here at Eastern New Mexico, but God had a different plan for me. Eight years later, my experience there at Valdosta State made me a better coach, a better person. Getting to work for (VSU Athletic Director) Herb Reinhard, and the setting down there with their success with all of their different sports, I got to see how other coaches ran sports. I think it’s going to help me get Zia volleyball back.
A: There are so many things, and this is going to sound weird, but just moving over from the second chair to the first chair. I remember my first year, I would still sit at the second or third chair. I wasn’t used to sitting at that chair, especially with me being an assistant for so long.
Until the first whistle, it doesn’t hit you ... “I’ve got to turn in the lineup.” Those are the things you take for granted that are basically routine. I did forget to turn in a lineup on time for my very first match. After that first whistle, reality kicked in ... “Hey, I’m the guy who has to make the calls now.”
Q: Is there anything you miss about being an assistant coach?
A: If I do really bad, I have nobody to blame but me.
Dewayne Roberts is my assistant. I’ve been around him for a few days now. He’s so energetic, and he reminds me of me 10 to 15 years ago. I guess what I miss is all the energy and having the ligaments between your knees. I can’t jump like I used to.
Q: You took over a Blazer volleyball squad that posted back-to-back four-win seasons, and you left with five conference tournament appearances. The Zia team you inherit is coming off back-to-back 6-24 seasons. What are the similar challenges, and what are the challenges specific to Eastern?
A: The first one, we’ve got some holes to fill. Recruiting is always the challenge anywhere.
I’ve watched footage of last year’s team. I was talking to Dewayne. I said, “Man, you guys weren’t really that far off.”
To answer your question, it’s recruiting.
You can look at Eastern’s record and what they’ve done or not done and say you’ve got to clean house. But I guess I’m taking a different approach as far as rebuilding, or whatever you want to call it. I like the kids I have on the team, they’re anxious to start spring ball next week. But it’s up to me and Dwayne to bring some kids in. I think we’ve got some good outsides. We need another setter, and a big need is middle blocker.
Q: Any thing else you’d like to add?
A: It’s not too far away. Stick with us and we’ll turn it around.
— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Kevin Wilson and edited for length and clarity