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Miner hopes to reflect his predecessor as new Althoff volleyball coach

Tony Miner (second from right) has served as an assistant under former coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich (second from left) for two runs at an IHSA volleyball state championship. He was hired to take over for Thomas-Dietrich, who moved on to be an assistant at Missouri State. Abby Thomas (far right) will become the junior varsity coach, while Kathy Wuller (far left), a former head coach and assistant, has decided to retire.
Tony Miner (second from right) has served as an assistant under former coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich (second from left) for two runs at an IHSA volleyball state championship. He was hired to take over for Thomas-Dietrich, who moved on to be an assistant at Missouri State. Abby Thomas (far right) will become the junior varsity coach, while Kathy Wuller (far left), a former head coach and assistant, has decided to retire.

Edwardsville native Tony Miner won't complete his collegiate volleyball career and earn his degree from Lindenwood University-Belleville until later this year.

But on Thursday, Miner was chosen to lead the top Class 3A girls volleyball program in the state.

An assistant coach for an Althoff volleyball program that won the Class 3A state title last fall, 23-year-old Miner has been named the Crusaders' head coach.

A former three-sport athlete and a 2012 graduate of Edwardsville High School, Miner takes over the Crusaders program from Sara Thomas-Dietrich, who resigned last month to become an assistant women's volleyball coach at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.

"I couldn't be any more excited. It's a great feeling to finally have the chance to step into that head coaching job," Miner said Thursday. "I've learned so much from Sara while an assistant on the staff at Althoff. I am very grateful to Sara for thinking so highly of me to recommend me for this position, and very appreciative of (Althoff Athletic Director) Greg Leib and the Althoff administration for this opportunity."

"I have a lot to learn. As a coach you never stop learning. But I'm excited and ready for this challenge as we move forward here."

Thomas-Dietrich, an Althoff graduate, led the Crusaders to a record of 41-1 and the Class 3A state championship a year ago. Althoff, long one of the top programs in the state, placed third in Class 2A in 2016.

She called Miner's appointment to the job "logical."

"When I was leaving, he was my recommendation to coach Leib immediately," Thomas-Dietrich said. "For one, he buys into the Althoff culture, which is very family oriented. It's encouraging to one another's accomplishments. And he understands the high standards there."

Miner, who played basketball, soccer and volleyball at Edwardsville, met Thomas-Dietrich when she recruited him to play for the Lynx. Thomas-Dietrich then helped Miner land a coaching job with the Metro East Fire girls club team.

Miner also has coached the Illinois High Performance boys club team and has been an assistant at Althoff for the past two years.

Miner inherits an Althoff squad that could again be among the best in IHSA Class 3A in 2018. While four-year starting setter Louise Comerford will move on to play college volleyball at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, he will return middle hitter Karinna Gall and outside hitter Katie Wemhoener.

The Crusaders also return several other players who will get their chance to break into an already solid lineup.

"We're going to try and win it (state) again," Miner said. "I think that when you take over a program (that) has so much success and had several outstanding coaches, expectations are going to be high, and there will be pressure to be successful.

"When you talk about Katie (Wemhoener) and Karinna (Gall), you are talking about two players who came in as freshmen two years ago and earned their starting spots. But I think (Mary) Wessel is a player who will come in play well as our setter.

"Grace Strieker got the state championship point last year, and she returns, and Claire (Franke) is another junior who will probably come in and be our starting libero. Plus we have a lot talented players who played for me at the junior-varsity level last year.''

Miner said he knows he has some big shoes to fill in taking over the Crusaders program from Thomas-Dietrich.

"One of the things I took from Sara was her approach to coaching the athletes. She was more than a volleyball coach to these girls," he said. "She is someone who helped the girls with other aspects of their lives as well. If they had a problem she was there for them.

"I want to be be able to be that same kind of coach."

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