As the most recent coaching hire at St. Andrews University, Holly Mandeville has grown accustomed to upheaval over the course of the summer months.
Around the time that she was married this past summer, Mandeville learned that Mountain State University, the school where she formerly served as the head volleyball coach, was experiencing accreditation issues. Due to this, all nine of the players that Mandeville recruited for the Mountain State program opted to find another college to play volleyball, and Mandeville assisted in helping them find schools.
Two of those recruits, Ashley Weinzimmer and Raven Prather, decided to follow Mandeville to St. Andrews University. But right when she began her first day on the job August 13th, Mandeville was faced with an entirely new challenge: Getting to know her new team roughly a day before their first scrimmage.
“I had a two-hour meeting with my players the first morning I was here, and I didn’t know anything about them,” said Mandeville, whose Knights volleyball team will officially begin their regular season schedule August 31st in a Labor Day tournament held in Daytona, FL.
“I didn’t know what position they played and hadn’t seen them play at all. I had to hit the ground running right when I got here, because there was much to do in order to catch up with the season being right around the corner,” she said.
Even as they awaited the arrival of their new coach, the Knights volleyball team practiced on their own, and it showed during their scrimmage meet held in Bolivia, NC August 14th, the day after Mandeville started. The Knights bested two of their three opponents (Cape Fear and Brunswick Community Colleges) that evening.
With that said, there has been a significant influx of new head coaching departures and hires at St. Andrews University since the summer months of 2011. Since last summer, St. Andrews has made eight new coaching hires, with three of those coming in the past six weeks alone.
Of the three most recent hires, two (including Mandeville) will be tasked with organizing and preparing their respective teams for the upcoming fall sports schedule.
With their first regular season meet slated for September 7th, the Knights Cross Country team has a bit more breathing room to field a competitive roster. But head coach Bill Cason, who was hired two weeks ago and started August 12th, is currently far short of reaching his goal of a 20-athlete (10 men and 10 women) squad, and will be searching inward to build his team in the meanwhile.
“When class starts back up, we’ll put fliers up around campus and ask the current team members to help us find some more bodies,” said Cason, who has spent the last three years of his career as the cross country and track and field coach at Guilford College. The newly-hired Knights coach has a two year plan in place to build his team into a competitive force once the subsequent off-season recruiting periods begin. As it stands, there are just seven athletes on the Knights cross country roster.
“There’s definitely some good kids on our team, just not enough of them. As a new coach, I can’t look back, I can only look forward,” Cason said.
When their seasons begin in a few short weeks, the St. Andrews cross country, soccer (men’s and women’s), and volleyball teams will be the first taste that the university has had of being in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Announcing the move away from the NCAA earlier this calendar year, St. Andrews will be members of the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) along with 10 other teams that will provide more balanced competition for the Knights compared with years past.
According to St. Andrews Athletic Director Glenn Batten, not only is the universities’ move to the NAIA cause for excitement, but the recent introduction of fresh faces into the athletic program further proves that it’s a new day for Knights sports.
“St. Andrews is a school that gives young and experienced coaches a chance to build their programs from scratch,” Batten said. Since their move to the NAIA, St. Andrews has also introduced junior varsity basketball and wrestling teams to the fold, and currently has hopes of adding a competitive swimming program in the next year.
“The recent coaching changes are equal parts exciting and challenging for the university, but there’s definitely a lot of optimism floating around campus at the present time. More so than I can remember feeling in some time,” he said.
When he weighed the offer to become the head coach of the St. Andrews women’s soccer team, it was Rick Parlow’s conversations with long-standing university faculty and employees that made his decision final. Unlike the volleyball and cross country coaches, Parlow has had a full off-season to recruit players including international talent: new recruits Rebecca Harper, Catrin Anderson-Hayman and Andea’ Been all come from outside the United States.
But as he prepares for the start of his regular season, which begins August 28th at Milligan College, Parlow recalls the pride that St. Andrews incumbents had for their school and how that led to him accepting the coaching position.
“I walked around and talked with tenured faculty and staff, and it speaks volumes about how happy there are at this school,” said Parlow, who became the head women’s soccer coach February 7th of this year. “These people love living in Scotland County and love being at this university, and that was what really brought me here.”