Bell coaches volleyball, teaches about life
Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2014

Bell coaches volleyball, teaches about life

Zoe Bell says she knows she is taking over an overall younger team in Ardrey Kell, which lost six key senior players to graduation for the upcoming season, but she expects some younger players to rise to the occasion.
  • Zoe Bell

    • Career Record (High School): 557-126 (.816 winning percentage).

    •  State Championships: Five (most recent: 2012 at Ardrey Kell).

    •  Conference Championships: 15.

Zoe Bell has proven she can produce winning teams.

She started coaching in 1989 at then-new Providence High, where her teams won four state championships. Then she went to Ardrey Kell (2008-2012), where her final season ended in 2012 in 4A state title.

In her one year at Charlotte Latin (2013), she took the Hawks to the NCISAA state quarterfinals.

Bell also has excelled as a coach for one of the top club teams in the Southeast, in the Carolinas Junior Volleyball club, where she had guided her various teams to six USA Junior National Championship tournament berths.

Bell made what was a difficult decision in 2012 to take over for her good friend Suzie Pignetti at Charlotte Latin, the nine-time defending NCISAA 3A state champion (2004-2012). Despite losing nearly all of the starting lineup, Bell had another strong season, leading the Hawks’ to a 17-15 record.

But after that season, Bell says, something drew her back to Ardrey Kell.

“I still can’t pinpoint exactly what made me chose to go back to Ardrey Kell,” Bell said. “Charlotte Latin is a great place with great kids and great parents. But sometimes you just have a gut feeling and you have to make a decision and go with it. There was just something magnetic drawing me back to Ardrey Kell.”

The last time Bell was on the court with her players at Ardrey Kell, they were walking off N.C. State University’s Reynolds’ Coliseum court with a 4A state title. Some of the sophomores on the championship team will be seniors this coming season. They say they still remember the feeling and inspiration Bell gives.

“We’re all really happy to have her back,” said Ardrey Kell senior Abby Smith said. “She is a great coach who really cares about her players. Her intensity really drives us to work harder and to play even harder. Just playing for her makes you feel like you have a chance to do something special.”

Ardrey Kell senior Elizabeth Kaeser said, “Just having coach Bell back will make us have bigger goals. I love playing for her, because she not only knows how to work you, but she knows what each player is capable of and she is going to push to do that and even more.”

While players’ expectations are high, Bell knows she is taking over an overall younger team. Ardrey Kell lost six seniors to graduation, including standouts like Marshae Bradbury, Lily Duggan, Tori Hawkins and Serena Jackson. The team went 19-10 last season and advanced to the third round of the 4A playoffs before losing to Hough High.

But Kaeser (231 kills, 95 digs, 51 aces last year), Smith, Kaylan Frame, Taylor Gordon and Shelby Whitfield (74 digs, 46 aces last year) give the team a solid core. Bell says she expects some younger players to emerge.

But no matter who fills out the lineup, Bell says, she enjoys building each team.

“There is always a process for a coach every season on any team that you coach,” said Bell, a 12-time Southwestern 4A coach of the year and five-time Charlotte Observer coach of the year. “Some processes take longer than others. But I really do enjoy the challenge of building a team up and seeing the girls believe in themselves and accomplish things maybe they didn’t know they could. That process is why I enjoy coaching.”

But Bell, who coaches volleyball year round from high school to club teams, says the foundation of her coaching and success is focused more on life in general.

“What I try to do every day is not just about volleyball; I try to teach these girls about their lives,” Bell said. “You’re going to have to work hard to be successful, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But I really try to make sure I help prepare them for the future.

“I just happened to teach most of these things on a volleyball court.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at

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