BENTON — Carla Herschberger’s riding off into the sunset. Perhaps literally.
“We bought new bikes last summer, and then rode them twice this summer,” Herschberger said Thursday, Oct. 31, as she discussed her decision to resign as head coach of the Fairfield High School volleyball program that she’s built into a perennial state power.
“I just think it’s time in my life to try something different, because (volleyball) has taken up a whole bunch of my time,” Herschberger said. “I’ll be 53 in November, and I need some time to do other things. I’m not sure exactly what those will be, but I know it’s a chance to spend more time with my grandkids.”
Herschberger, who will remain a science teacher at Fairfield Junior High, said she didn’t want to entirely lose the passion she’s always felt and still feels for volleyball.
“There were a couple times at practice this year where I found myself thinking, ‘I wish I could go home,’” Herschberger said of what she described as a relatively new sensation for her. “And, you know what, that’s not fair to anybody on the team. I didn’t want to be one of those coaches that stays too long.”
Herschberger got nowhere close to that in terms of the results while piling up staggering numbers over 13 years at Fairfield.
This season’s Falcons went 29-8, winning the program’s 10th straight sectional championship, eighth straight Northeast Corner Conference regular-season crown and fifth straight NECC Tourney title before falling in Tuesday’s regional.
And the Falcons of just a year earlier went 35-2 for the best record in program history, losing in the Class 3A semistate championship round.
There were also five straight 2A State Finals appearances from 2006 to 2010, including state runner-up finishes behind nationally acclaimed Muncie Burris in both 2006 and 2010.
Herschberger’s overall record with the Falcons closes at 387-80.
She took over at Fairfield one year after leading none other than rival Westview to its lone State Finals appearance in 1999. Herschberger was 68-35 in three years with the Warriors.
“She is a true coaching legend and we are so thankful for her time as the leader of our volleyball program,” Fairfield athletic director Mark Hofer said in announcing Herschberger’s resignation Thursday, one day after Herschberger informed her players.
“She has done so much for the girls in developing their skills and taking our program to a level where we are respected across the state,” Hofer said, “but even more importantly, she took the time to work with each of her girls and helped them to reach for their best as a person. Many of her players earned academic all-state recognition and her teams consistently had girls who achieved Fairfield scholar-athlete status in the classroom.”
“Number one, I’ve had good athletes,” Herschberger said of why she was able to enjoy sustained success. “That’s a blessing in itself. And then I think because I do have passion for the game, and because I think can talk people into doing stuff like working hard, I think that’s maybe why we’ve been successful. I also had good coaches, and two excellent athletic directors in Mark and Darlene Mathew (at Westview). That makes a difference.”
Some of the differences that Herschberger made came with her and husband Kirby’s four daughters aboard.
All four — 2004 graduate Mandy (Miller), 2006 grad Brittany (Woodworth), 2007 grad Kelsey (West) and 2009 grad Courtney — played volleyball for their mom.
Kelsey just completed her first season as head coach at Goshen High School and Courtney’s in her first as an assistant at Wheaton (Ill.) College.
They’re just beginning what their mom finally came to view as a grind.
“I’m just tired,” Herschberger said of the time commitment involved in volleyball excellence. “It’s year-round. I gave my players July off so I would have July off, but besides that, there’s something every month with volleyball. I was told, ‘Don’t do the extra stuff,’ but that’s not how I want to run my program. I couldn’t do that.”
Hofer said “no plans have been made” yet regarding selecting Herschberger’s successor.
Carla Herschberger By The Numbers
455-115 — Won-loss record, including 387-80 in 13 years at Fairfield and 68-35 in 3 years at Westview.
112-6 — Home record at Fairfield.
11 — NECC regular-season titles at Fairfield, including an active streak of eight.
10 — Consecutive sectional titles, fourth-longest active streak in Indiana, the last three in Class 3A.
7 — NECC tourney titles at Fairfield, including an active streak of five.
6 — State Finals appearances, including five straight at Fairfield (2006-10) and one (1999) at Westview.
2 — State runner-up finishes, in 2006 and 2010 in Class 2A.