By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

When Lori George stepped down as the girls volleyball coach at Cimarron High School after the 2009 season, she wasn't sure when, or if, she would return to the sidelines to coach her favorite sport.

She had resigned as the Lady Bluejays' coach in order to return to school to work on her degree. Little did she realize that a year later she would be right back on the court with her team, and that it would serve to be one of the most memorable seasons in school history.

The Lady Bluejays compiled an impressive 36-4 record, won the Hi-Plains League championship, ending a long reign by Southwestern Heights, and reached the finals of the Class 3A sub-state tournament before falling to eventual third-place state finisher Phillipsburg, 25-12, 23-25, 25-23.

For her team's successful run, George was voted The Telegram's Area Volleyball Coach of the Year for 2011.

"I'm so fortunate because I just love these girls so much," George said of her team, which was led by six seniors, including All-Area selection Lindsay Wehkamp. "They're so wonderful, and they stepped up and were tremendous leaders. They're a very competitive group, and they push each other to a whole other level."

George said her team had a combination of senior experience and a talented group of sophomores that blended well.

"The sophomores stepped up with them (seniors), and I couldn't have asked for a better team," George said.

What the Lady Bluejays' coach liked about her team was its versatility.

"I had six girls who could play the whole court," George said. "They could hit, they could dig, they could block and they could return. They're really just a group of great athletes."

George said it had been difficult to put aside the season-ending loss to Phillipsburg.

"That last match is always the most difficult, but when you feel like you were right there and had the opportunity to win and go to state, it just leaves an empty feeling," George said.

"But now that some time has gone by, I've just come to appreciate the great season, the girls and how hard they worked and what we accomplished. It was great to get back and coach these girls because I had been around them for years."