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Longtime Sierra coach comes out of retirement to lead MJC
Tevani Liotard, third from right, gets Sierra Highs volleyball team fired up in a 2007 match. The Mantecan now coaches Modesto Junior Colleges womens volleyball squad. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Tevani Liotard had always known when she was going to stop coaching.

She just had no idea if, when and/or where she’d pick it back up.

The former Sierra High volleyball coach is now heading Modesto Junior College’s program, ending a brief two years of retirement.

Liotard is Sierra’s first varsity volleyball coach and guided the team through its first 15 years. The plan all along was for her to step down after the 2009 season when her youngest of two daughters would be a senior.

Mahlynn and Jaslynn Liotard have used up their two years of volleyball eligibility at MJC, and when the coaching position opened up their mom jumped at the opportunity with the same passion she had as an outside hitter attacking a perfectly-set ball.

“I’m ready to coach again. I’m excited to make the next step,” said Liotard, who teaches volleyball classes twice at week at MJC. “I told the athletic director (Dr. William Kaiser) that if he needed me I’d be more than happy to do it. Four weeks later, he gave me a call for an interview.”

She is the third Manteca native on the MJC coaching staff, joining men’s track coach Demetrius Snear and men’s basketball coach Paul Brogan, who now resides in Ripon.

Liotard is reinvigorated by the new challenges ahead, and there are many.

For one, the Pirates haven’t enjoyed a winning season in five years, going 16-11 back in 2007. Their 2011 run — 4-10 in the Big 8 Conference, 14-15 overall — was their best since then.

“I have a lot of work to do,” Liotard said. “It’s not going to be easy, and I know that. It’s a whole different world.”

She will have to change her coaching style some to cater to refined year-round club players — a big change from her time at Sierra where its top female athletes traditionally compete in multiple sports.

Then there’s scouting. And recruiting. Liotard said she has already met with 15 recruits. Her familiarity with high school athletes and coaches in the area has been a boost in that regard.

“I have re-established some contact with the coaches from the (Valley Oak League), and they’re real supportive,” Liotard said. “It’s nice to have that rapport.”

Liotard is still the physical education coordinator for Manteca Unified’s elementary schools.

During her 15 years at Sierra, 14 as varsity coach, she compiled a 142-158 career record and led the Timberwolves to seven Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearances. Over that time, she coached Trinity Johnson and Eryn Bowers. Johnson succeeded Liotard as Sierra’s coach, while Bowers coaches across town at East Union.

In 2005-06, she was recognized with the SJS Model Coach Award.

Liotard starred in many sports at Manteca High, where she graduated from in 1983. She went on to play volleyball and basketball at Delta College, and earned Division II All-America status for volleyball at Sacramento State. In 1998, she was inducted into Sac State’s volleyball Hall of Fame.

Liotard remains in contact with her college coaches — Mary Ann Paz (Delta) and Debby Colberg (Sac State) — to this day and regards both as mentors. She never imagined herself walking in their shoes.

“I told myself as a sixth grader that I’m going to be a teacher when I grow up,” Liotard said, “and in seventh grade I knew I wanted to coach as well.

“I achieved that and was happy with it. Coaching college was never a big goal of mine because I have kids, but things change. I guess I’m not done growing up yet.”