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Tevani Liotard takes reins of East Union girls volleyball team
Longtime Manteca Unified educator last coached at MJC in 2012
East Union coach Liotard
Tevani Liotard has come out of retirement from coaching to lead the East Union girls volleyball team. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

 Tevani Liotard’s coaching career has come full circle at East Union.

In the early 1990s, her then-newborn daughter, Mahlynn, got passed around among assistants as Liotard coached sophomore basketball games.

East Union coach Liotard
East Union volleyball coach Tevani Liotard passes the ball in a drill.
Now, more than a decade since her last coaching job, she’s back at East Union — this time with younger daughter Jaslynn on the staff.

“They grew up in the gym,” Tevani said. “They learned very quickly that this was going to be their life.”

She has taken over as the girls volleyball coach, and Jaslynn was appointed to head the freshman team. Leilani Rios leads the junior varsity squad.

Liotard is a 1983 graduate of Manteca High. In fact, she is part of the school’s latest Hall of Fame class. A multi-sport standout, she played volleyball and basketball at Delta College and Sacramento State, earning NCAA Division II All-America honors for volleyball.

Liotard’s first coaching stint was with her alma mater, serving as sophomore coach under Scott Eckerle from 1988-90. From 1990-93, she coached sophomore basketball and freshman volleyball at East Union.

In 1994, Manteca Unified opened its third compressive high school, Sierra. That is where she left her mark, coaching the first 15 years of the volleyball team’s existence. The Timberwolves qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section seven times in 14 varsity seasons, and Liotard earned the SJS Model Coach Award during the 2005-06 school year.

East Union coach Liotard
Tevani Liotard tosses the ball up for Izzy Avalos in a hitting drill.

Mahlynn graduated from Sierra in 2009, and Jaslynn in 2010. Tevani stepped down as volleyball coach after Jaslynn’s senior campaign in 2009.

Liotard last coached Modesto Junior College’s women’s volleyball team in 2012, when she was P.E. Coordinator for Manteca Unified.

She is back to teaching P.E. and began to get the itch to coach again while getting to know her students at East Union in the last few years.

“I’ve had a lot of volleyball players in class, and they’d talk about volleyball this and volleyball that,” Liotard said. “I’m just there hearing all this and thinking, ‘God, I’d love to get back into it.’

“When I heard the job was open, I asked my family if we can fit this into our schedule, because my grandkids live next door and I wanted to be there if they needed me. They said, ‘Let’s do it.’ It wasn’t, ‘Go for it, mom.’ It was, ‘Let’s do it.’”

The Lancers have been training twice a week, splitting time between the gym and weight room. Next week, they’ll host their youth camp.

East Union coach Liotard
East Union volleyball coach Tevani Liotard gets her team organized for a drill Thursday morning at Dalben Center.

“It just brings back those memories,” Liotard said of her summer workouts with the team. “It’s something you never lose. I can’t wait to get back in the gym, or for the first serve to go up or celebrating a kill. I still get that feeling. I still feel like I’m part of it, even though I’m not the one on the court playing.”

Liotard said her coaching style has changed, as has the sport. Having to adjust to the times has only further invigorated her.

“I am the student all the time in this sport,” she said. “When you stop learning, you shouldn’t be coaching.”

Michelle Sims spearheaded the program the past two years. The Lancers missed a postseason berth but were competitive, going 15-21 overall. East Union has not made the playoffs since 2015.

“I told the girls that whatever happened last season or the season before, we’re not looking in the rear-view mirror,” Liotard said. “We are looking forward. We’re going to get better one game at a time.”