HOPE — Jeff Case spent the first two years of his volleyball coaching career at the eighth-grade level, and those two years, his was the only team in the Hauser program with a winning record.

So when high school varsity coach Betsy Davis left for North Decatur following the 2001 season, Case applied for the job. He was told they wanted a teacher in that position, and Case understood.

Then, a week before the 2002 season started, the coach that was hired to take Davis’ place took another job. This time, Case was elevated to the varsity position. He’s been there ever since.

Now, in his 16th year as the Jets coach, Case is taking his first team to the state finals. Class A No. 2 Hauser will play top-ranked Lafayette Central Classic at 11 a.m. Saturday at Ball State’s Worthen Arena.

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“I knew (this year’s seniors) were really strong and were going to be a great group of kids,” Case said. “I hadn’t dreamed of getting to state. There are so many teams out there and good programs and really good coaches that it’s quite a chore.”

The Jets success isn’t a newfound thing. They’ve won eight consecutive sectional titles and nine in the past 10 years. They’ve won five regional championships.

Earlier this season, Case won his 400th career game. He now is 427-109.

Case started playing club volleyball after graduating from Hauser in 1983.

“I just loved the sport and had a lot of fun playing it,” Case said.

But it wasn’t until his daughter, Erica, was in middle school that he began to coach volleyball. He coached Erica’s team her eighth grade year and then coached the eighth-graders again the following year.

Until then, Case hadn’t really thought about coaching.

“I loved playing, and I was starting to get a little older,” Case said. “Coaching is really exciting, and it filled the competitive edge. I found a love for working with kids and teaching them the game.”

During his second year with the eighth-graders, Case began helping former Columbus East coach Dave Newland in the South Central Indiana Volleyball Association.

Case said he learned a lot about the game from Newland, and former Columbus North and Bloomington South coach Greg Morris.

“They’re both amazing coaches and great guys,” Case said. “A lot of people took me under their wing and taught me stuff.”

His first year as head coach, the Jets lost to Oldenburg Academy in the sectional. Morristown then handed Hauser five-set losses in the sectional finals each of the next three years. The Yellow Jackets went on to win a Class A state title one of those years and were state runner-up in another.

After moving up to 2A, the Jets won their first sectional title in 2008. They did it again in 2010, then returned to Class A and have won seven in a row since then.

“We’ve had some really good teams,” Case said. “Last year’s team was really good. We had Brea Metz and Tannyr Davis, two really good players, with these girls. The team that won the sectional in 2008 was really good.”

The seeds for this year’s run were planted in 2004, when Case and Becky Schoen started HAVOC (Hope Area Volleyball Club). Schoen’s daughter Sydney, who is a senior standout on this year’s team, was just starting to play, and so were some of her future teammates.

Case credits the club with helping develop his players.

“It’s huge,” Case said. “It was a lot of time in the gym for the girls in the offseason, getting them playing club ball and being more active in the program.”

Becky Schoen coached the middle school team when Sydney was in middle school and has been a varsity assistant since Sydney has been in high school.

Erica (Case) Raisor, who graduated in 2005, was the head coach at Waldron for two years before returning to Hauser and spending four years as an assistant for her father. She now is an administrator for HAVOC

“I really enjoyed spending extra time with her, and I really miss that part of it,” Case said. “I was really glad to get Rachel (Thayer) as the JV coach. She’s another kid that played for me, and she’s just an awesome kid.”

Case has thought about a lot of those “awesome” kids that he has coached this week as he prepares to coach the biggest game of his career.

“Personally for me, it’s just so overwhelming,” Case said. “To be in this situation is very humbling. The best part is working with these amazing kids. They’ve impacted my life. I have kids that I communicate with all the time from past teams. I can’t imagine my life without them.”

Jeff Case

Name: Jeff Case

Age: 52

High school: Hauser

Residence: Hope

Occupation: Custom machine fabricator at Capital Industries in Shelbyville, head volleyball coach at Hauser

Family: Wife Kristen Case; children Erica (Kevin) Raisor (30), Preston Case (25), Christian Case (20); two grandchildren

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.