Coach Chandra Hepler (left) and her daughter Ellie (right) celebrate with the trophy after winning the AAU volleyball national championship in Orlando, FL, last weekend. It’s the third AAU championship in four years for the duo, and second in a row.
Coach Chandra Hepler (left) and her daughter Ellie (right) celebrate with the trophy after winning the AAU volleyball national championship in Orlando, FL, last weekend. It’s the third AAU championship in four years for the duo, and second in a row.
Chandra Hepler, head coach of Warsaw volleyball, and her daughter Ellie have worked together to help build perhaps the most difficult and sought after team achievement in sports: a dynasty.

Last weekend, The Academy Boiler Juniors 14s volleyball team, based in Lafayette, won its third AAU National Championship in four years, and second in a row at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. Hepler coaches the team alongside John Shondell, the associate head coach of Purdue volleyball. Ellie, the Warsaw Community High School freshman-to-be has been playing for the Boiler Juniors for the last five years.

“From the first practice we went to, we walked out and she said ‘these are my people,’” Coach Hepler said. “The girls all have the same goals in mind, and that’s to be the best they can be no matter what level they are.”

Over the past four years, the level at which the Boiler Juniors team has played is among the highest in the country, going up against the top competition the age group has to offer.  After playing over 100 matches so far this season, the team is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, and has held that title for a majority of the year.

The Boiler Juniors boast six All-Americans, including Hepler. Three were selected last season, and three more were selected this year.

The success has been appreciated every step of the way.

“I think each one is a little more special than the last one, because I’ve got to experience it with three different groups of girls,” The younger Hepler said. “It’s been really fun and definitely a different feeling for each one.”

With players being eligible to play AAU until they are 18 and Ellie entering her freshman year at WCHS, there’s a good chance the mother-daughter duo will be competing at multiple levels over the next few years.

“We’ve always had an agreement where if she felt [me coaching her] was too much at any point in time or if there was a relationship change that I wouldn’t coach her anymore,” Hepler said. “That’s never happened, and love coaching her, but I remind her every day that she has to prove that she belongs, whether that’s on the varsity, junior varsity or the freshman team.

“She’s proven herself to me time and time again but I’m not her teammate out on the court. There’s a fine line between being a mom and having a player on a high school program. I wouldn’t coach her if we didn’t have a great relationship.”

Ellie’s goals at the high school level aren’t very surprising. She just wants to continue to do what she’s already done: win.

“My biggest [goal] is definitely to win sectionals and then to win state. We’ve been talking about that for awhile now so that would be great,” she said.

Before the duo starts focusing on Warsaw volleyball, the Boiler Juniors still have a task at hand. The team is competing at the USA Volleyball Girls National Championship in Indianapolis starting Monday. It’s one of the few tournaments the team hasn’t won. The Boiler Juniors are the No. 2 seed heading in. The team qualified by winning the Windy City Qualifier in Chicago.

“Our goal is to be the first team ever in the open division to win both an AAU national championship and then a USAV national championship. Everybody there is the best of the best, it’s the hill we’re trying to climb,” Hepler said. “The only team seeded higher than us is the team that beat us in the quarterfinals last year, so our girls are definitely fueled and ready to compete.”