Ashley Doffing is a kid in a candy store right now.
Last season’s McAllen Rowe freshman volleyball coach jumped from those ranks and was selected the new varsity volleyball coach for the McAllen Memorial Mustangs, the school she graduated from in 2006. She replaces Lorena Lopez, who coached at Memorial from 2001 to 2005 as an assistant volleyball coach, then from 2006 to 2018 as the head coach. She resigned last year to take a position as assistant athletic director for the McAllen school district.
Doffing is one of a few coaches who are new faces leading their volleyball squads, including Debbie Garcia at La Villa, Stephanie Flores at Mercedes, Anyssa Rios at Monte Alto, and others.
“It’s like a kid going from the freshman squad to captain of the varsity squad,” she said. “It’s intimidating.”
McAllen coaches who she played against while at Memorial are once again coaches she’ll play against — but now as a colleague in the coaching ranks and not a player.
“They were coaching when I was playing,” she said, referring to McAllen Rowe coach Magda Canales and McAllen High coach Paula Dodge. “Just to text Coach Dodge — I have so much respect for her — is crazy for me. She always intimidated me when we played them. She’s such a great coach.”
Doffing recalls playing under Lopez, who was the first person Doffing approached when she decided to apply for the job. “I’ve been able to learn from the best. I grew up in McAllen, I’ve watched them (Dodge, Canales, Lopez) and was trained by them. Those are the things I brought to the table during my interview.”
Memorial is one of the most successful volleyball programs in the Valley, year-in and year-out. The Mustangs, Warriors (Rowe) and Bulldogs (McHi) are playoff regulars, often times leaving everyone else in the district scrambling for the fourth and final playoff spot. The Mustangs are coming off a perfect district record and the District 30-6A title.
“The first goal is to win — and, in McAllen, it’s not enough anymore to just go to regional,” she said. “We want to get there and take at least one game. Everyone is up when they are playing McAllen, the same way the McAllen schools are up when they play each other.
“I’ve been talking to Coach Lopez pretty often and she has given me background on all of the players. I’m already thinking about the first game against Rowe too. Everything has come full circle.”
Everything but calling Lopez, “Coach Lopez” has come full circle is what she meant.
“Yeah, I still call her that,” Doffing said. “I’ll probably never use her first name. She’ll probably make me run liners.”
DEBBIE GARCIA, LA VILLA HIGH SCHOOL
La Villa’s Debbie Garcia is in her first year as a head coach anywhere at the varsity level, coming off an undefeated season leading the Edcouch-Elsa freshman squad.
Garcia spent seven years as an assistant varsity coach at Monte Alto before going home to her high school alma mater at E-E, where she was a three-year varsity letter-winner on the Yellow Jackets volleyball squad.
She said her brother, who coaches at La Villa, kept encouraging her to go to the District 32-2A school.
“This opportunity came available and it took me a couple weeks to decide,” she said. “I’ve only known Edcouch.”
Garcia, who will also be coaching power lifting, brought to La Villa her best friend Angie Garza, who will be the assistant volleyball coach and cross country coach.
Garcia said she had a chance to recently talk to her team about the expectations.
“We want to win district,” she said about her team, which finished third in district and fell in the first round of the playoffs. “I’ve been told this group is capable of winning district. My goal is to teach them how to get through (difficult times) and how to work through it.
“We want to get past the first round.”
STEPHANIE FLORES, MERCEDES HIGH SCHOOL
Like Doffing and Garcia, Stephanie Flores is a first-time head coach at the varsity level. Unlike them, however, not only did she graduate from Mercedes, but she’s also been an assistant coach for three year so she knows the program well and her players also know what’s expected of them.
“The top priority we have is to make sure these girls buy into the program and are comfortable in a safe environment and want to succeed,” said Flores, who graduated from Mercedes in 2012. “I’m excited for a whole new group and ready to rebuild this program.”
Flores has only four returning players but all four are seniors. She said that the group has good karma and will be especially helpful in the rebuilding process.
Flores is the third coach in the past four years for the Mercedes volleyball program.
“As a staff we need to make sure we coach the girls with such a passion — and get them to buy into the program. Of course, everyone’s number one goal as a team is to win district,” Flores said. “Right now I just want the girls to feel as comfortable as they can in the transition and I want to be a great coach for them.”