Volleyball coaches rivals on court, friends off | Bonney Lake, Sumner

The best game of the season for players and fans are often rivalry matches. When a team faces its rival, there is more on the line, they know the opposing players and the game is more exciting.

Now Bonney Lake head coach Debbie Beckwith used to coach at Sumner High School with Spartans' head coach Eric Stansbury. The two have also been neighbors for the past 14 years.

The best game of the season for players and fans are often rivalry matches.

When a team faces its rival, there is more on the line, they know the opposing players and the game is more exciting.

The volleyball season is quickly coming to an end and the final game of the season will showcase the Panthers and the Spartans.

The two have already faced each other earlier this month with Bonney Lake winning the match after five games, 3-2.

Aside from the rivalry between the two schools, the head coaches are more connected than most may know.

Bonney Lake’s coach Debbie Beckwith and Sumner’s Eric Stansbury have known each other for 15 years and even coached together at one time.

Beckwith has been coaching volleyball for 22 years and Stansbury is currently in his 15th year of coaching high school volleyball.

Beckwith started coaching at Sumner High School where she was trained by former Sumner coach Mike Fitzpatrick.

Stansbury started coaching at Sumner at the beginning of his second year of teaching.

Beckwith said coaching together with Stansbury was great.

“Eric is kind of my opposite, personality-wise, so we blended well with each other and helping out with our players,” she said.

And Stansbury agreed, he also thinks their different personalities helped the two work together better.

“I especially had a great time with Debbie when we were on the bench together during the varsity matches,” he said. “Together we schemed and picked out weaknesses in the opposition that we could exploit.”

When Beckwith starting coaching at Bonney Lake, she said, “It was a little strange coaching against Eric at first.”

She said for the first few years, she knew who the players were because she coached  them and knew what to expect from them.

Beckwith said to this day it is still strange to walk into Sumner’s gym and not have it be her home court.

Apart from coaching with each other and now against each other, Beckwith and Stansbury are also neighbors and have been for roughly 14 years.

The two not only talk about volleyball when they see each other around the neighborhood but they can talk about anything and even help each other out when they need to, Beckwith said.

She said, this year they also check in with each other and see how they are dealing with being first year head coaches this season.

When it comes to the Bonney Lake and Sumner rivalry, Beckwith said, “It is a healthy rivalry.”

She said Bonney Lake doesn’t prepare any differently for the Sumner games than they do for any other team throughout the season.

“The players (however) get very excited and competitive when they play Sumner,” she said. “They definitely want to win the rivalry game.”

She added that she even becomes a little more competitive during the Sumner matches.

“My game face gets a little more defined when we play Sumner,” she said.

Stansbury agrees, he said the rivalry between the schools is great.

“I love playing Bonney Lake,” he said.

Stansbury tells his players that when they face Bonney Lake, they will be facing a well coached team.

“Of course we are both competitive people, so we really want to win when we play each other, but when we lose to Bonney Lake it never stings as much because I know that we lost to a well coached and prepared team,” he said.

Stansbury added he roots for Beckwith when the Spartans aren’t playing Bonney Lake.

Beckwith said the rivalry is more interesting because “players on both sides of the net are friends.”

She added despite players knowing each other and being friends, “Both teams want to beat their rival so it is always a great match.”

The two will coach their teams in the final game of the season against each other.

“I am a better coach and a better person for knowing her,” Stansbury said. “I have nothing but high respect for her. I wish her good luck when we play again but not too much luck.”

Bonney Lake and Sumner sit in the middle of the standings aside each other.

Sumner is 6-5 in conference play and 7-5 overall. While Bonney Lake is 5-6 in the conference and 6-6 overall.

Prior to the rivalry game, the Panthers play at 7:15 p.m. tonight against Enumclaw at home.

The Spartans travel to Auburn Wednesday to face the undefeated, South Puget Sound League leaders Auburn Riverside at 7:15 p.m.

The Panthers and Spartans will face each other next week at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 28 at Sumner High School.

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