Jeannine McCrumb made the most of her first chance.
In her opening year as a head volleyball coach, McCrumb knew she had inherited a Mount Hebron team capable of winning, and winning often. And when the ride was over, the Vikings were celebrating a county championship, their first state title and an 18-1 season.
"I knew on the first day of practice we were on our way with this group," recalled McCrumb, The Howard County Sun's Coach of the Year. "The thing I had to do as a coach was give the team confidence. I felt we had the talent to win, but we were favored to win and that was a new spot for us to be in."
The Vikings, led by senior setter Melissa Murdza, had the county's most potent mix of height and athletic ability. They used it to reel off winning streaks of seven and 11 games.
But the lone blemish on Hebron's record -- an embarrassing three-game loss to Centennial in the season's eighth match -- may have brought out the best in McCrumb and her team.
"That was humiliating to a lot of them," recalled McCrumb, an instructional science aide at Hammond High School who coached the junior varsity at Hebron for two years before taking over the program.
"We knew we were still talented, but we knew that mentally, we had wiped ourselves out, and that we would have to rise mentally," she added.
"It was a real turning point. We began working on being consistent and concentrating on the way we played, rather than who we played.
"The loss was good for us. It's hard being undefeated and staying motivated every day."
From there, Hebron was a different team, combining steady passing with a great power game better than any team in the league.
The Vikings tore through the second half of the county schedule, which culminated with a thrilling five-game victory over Centennial in the regular season finale.
That victory catapulted the Vikings to regional and state championships, as they wound up the season with 11 consecutive victories.
"The kids took it a little more seriously in the second half," McCrumb said. "There were some attitude changes, and that came from within."
With a little help from McCrumb, no doubt.