Hollins Volleyball Names Interim Head Coach

The Hollins University volleyball team is welcoming veteran local high school and club coach Dave McGee as the program’s interim head coach.

McGee joined James River High School in Buchanan, Virginia, as head volleyball coach in 2012, and has served as head volleyball coach for the Roanoke United Volleyball Club’s 16 Open team since 2010.

“Hollins is fortunate to find a coach like Dave in our own backyard,” said Director of Athletics Myra Sims. “He has a strong reputation in the region for his work and his teams have consistently advanced to district, region, and state tournament play. Clearly, he is able to execute effective coaching strategies.”

At James River, McGee has guided the Knights to five district and two regional championships, and took the team to the Virginia High School League (VHSL) state quarterfinals in 2012. Prior to coming to James River, he was head coach at Bath County High School from 2004 – 2012. Bath County won a state championship in 2011 under his leadership, and he was named VHSL Coach of the Year that same year. In nine years at Bath County, he was voted District Coach of the Year five times and Region Coach of the Year three times.

McGee graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and went on to earn his Master’s degree in kinesiology with a focus in sports psychology from A.T. Still University in Arizona.

“Dave’s educational background and his experience as a USA Volleyball Level 1 and 2 certified coach also give him a strong sense for player development and recruiting,” Sims noted. “His approach to coaching centers on creating a positive environment and developing respectful relationships with the athletes. I think his philosophy of developing players on and off the court will work really well at Hollins.”

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to coach here,” McGee said. “I’ve met the team and they seem like a wonderful group of athletes to work with. I look forward to the season and hope to continue the growing success of Hollins volleyball.”

Casey Mahan ’20 Prepares to Fulfill Her Dream of Becoming an Optometrist

Casey Mahan ’20 has wanted to become an optometrist since high school, and throughout her time at Hollins she gained a wide range of valuable experience in the field.

“My desire to practice optometry really solidified during my sophomore year when I traveled to North Dakota to work with a nonprofit organization called OneSight, which provides eye exams and glasses to children and adults who can’t afford them,” she says. “The following year I spent J-term working with Dr. Vin Dang, an optometrist in Bakersfield, California. I was able to shadow him as well as other optometrists and ophthalmologists, and view surgeries. As a senior I interned at a small optometry practice and loved every aspect of it, especially the relationship between doctor and patient.”

The biology major/chemistry minor from Virginia Beach says she began researching schools of optometry when she entered Hollins, and from the moment she talked with the Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), “I knew it was where I wanted to go, especially because of the early clinical experience they offer. I was also impressed with PCO graduates and what they had to say about the school. Obviously grades and coursework are a top priority for admission, but there’s also a heavy emphasis on getting to know students at the personal level during interviews. Optometry school is rigorous: It takes four years, including three summers, and they need to ensure students are well-prepared as undergraduates.”

Mahan is confident she is ready for the challenges ahead, thanks to both the “student” and “athlete” experiences she has enjoyed. “The biology department played an integral role in my acceptance to PCO, especially Associate Professor of Biology Morgan Wilson. When he became my advisor, he discussed with me the exact coursework I needed to take, when to take it, and how it could make my application stronger. He was always realistic with me about my goals. My friends at larger universities didn’t get the same personal connections with all their professors that I had, and I am forever grateful to Hollins for that.”

As captain of the Hollins volleyball team, which set the program record for victories in a season last year, Mahan believes she “became a better person, leader, and mentor, and better able to adapt to my surroundings. I learned valuable lessons about team dynamics and how they differ from year to year.”

Hollins Student-Athletes Earn Unprecedented ODAC All-Academic Honors

In acknowledgement of their excellence off the field of competition, a record number of Hollins University student-athletes have been named to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) All-Academic Team.

Hollins boasts 60 honorees this year among the more than 2,600 student-athletes cited by the ODAC for 2019-20, an all-time high for the conference.

Eligibility for the ODAC All-Academic Team is open to any student-athlete that competes in a conference-sponsored sport, regardless of academic class. Prospective honorees must achieve at least a 3.25 grade point average for the academic year to be considered for ODAC All-Academic Team recognition.

ODAC Postpones Conference Sports Competition Through End of 2020

After extensive deliberations, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Presidents Council has voted to postpone conference competition and championships for fall and winter sports through the end of the 2020 calendar year (December 31). The ODAC remains focused on providing meaningful competition for all student-athletes in 2020-21, which includes an intention to sponsor conference competition for fall and winter sports in the spring semester.

Hollins University is a member of the ODAC, along with Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, Emory & Henry College, Ferrum College, Guilford College, Hampden-Sydney College, University of Lynchburg, Randolph-Macon College, Randolph College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Sweet Briar College, Virginia Wesleyan University, and Washington & Lee University.

“The ODAC is one of the nation’s premiere Division III athletic conferences precisely because of our long-standing commitment to the student-athlete experience at all of our institutions,” said Bridgewater College President David Bushman, chair of the ODAC Presidents Council. “In light of the broader public health concerns surrounding athletic competitions, the well-being of our campuses, and everyone involved in athletic competition made this decision the right one. We have great athletic department leadership across the conference and a superb conference staff and we are all committed to hosting meaningful competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”

To help the ODAC and its member schools provide their student-athletes with the most complete athletic experience possible, NCAA Division III is considering a blanket waiver that would provide unprecedented scheduling flexibility. The scheduling change would provide all conference sports more time for individual and team skill instruction, strength and conditioning, leadership development, and other athletically-related activities during the academic year as health and safety conditions allow.

“The conference’s leadership worked extremely hard to explore ways we might have conducted conference championships and competition in the fall,” explained ODAC Commissioner Brad Bankston. “Those conversations involved a number of options, but none of them could change the current impact of the virus and its prevalence in our society. A safe return for students and the sustainability of campus life is a priority for all our members. The combination of fall, winter, and spring sports in the second semester is challenging, but the ODAC is committed to providing all student-athletes with a meaningful conference regular season and championship experience in a safe manner.”

The conference will continue to explore all options for a safe return to intercollegiate athletics. The ODAC leadership will communicate further developments regarding competition in 2020-21 as solutions are finalized and implemented.

The ODAC has developed a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document regarding the conference’s decision.

Hollins will directly email an FAQ page to student-athletes in the next 24-36 hours that will address topics such as move-in dates, practice schedules, and more.


Hollins Tennis Welcomes Collegiate Champion and Former Olympian and Pro Player As New Head Coach

Gretchen Rush, who was named the nation’s top tennis player during a standout collegiate career and represented the United States in the Olympic Games, is the new head tennis coach at Hollins University.

Rush comes to Hollins from her alma mater, Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where she was head coach for the past five years.

“Gretchen brings a lifetime of high-level experience to Hollins Tennis,” said Director of Athletics Myra Sims. “Her playing career speaks for itself, and her previous coaching stints give her immense credibility with current and prospective student-athletes.”

At Trinity University, Rush was a four-time All-American, an NCAA Division I doubles champion, and a two-time finalist in NCAA singles and doubles. In her senior year, she won the Broderick Award (now the Honda Sports Award) as the nation’s best female collegiate athlete in tennis. Rush subsequently played on the Women’s Tennis Association’s (WTA) professional tour, where she earned 191 singles wins and reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open (1982), French Open (1983), and Wimbledon (1989). As a doubles competitor, she captured 193 victories and played in the quarterfinals three times at Wimbledon (1986, 1991, and 1992) and once at the Australian Open (1988). At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, she lost to eventual semifinalist Catherine Tanvier of France.

During her time on the WTA circuit, Rush reached an individual high ranking of 13th and a doubles ranking of 16th. She retired from professional tennis in 1992 and was inducted into the Women’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 2016.

After her playing career, Rush served as the international tennis director at the Special Olympics and then went on to coach at the high school and collegiate levels. She was as an assistant at San Diego State University and head coach at Our Lady of Peace High School in San Diego, San Diego City College, and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges before joining Trinity University in 2015. In her five seasons at Trinity, Rush led the Tigers to five conference championships and five NCAA regional tournament appearances. The team also produced five NCAA All-Americans and earned Academic All-American honors all five seasons.

“I am proud to bring someone with Gretchen’s tennis background to Hollins,” Sims stated. “But equally as important as her tennis credentials is her emphasis on the whole person and not just the student-athlete’s tennis skills. Her philosophy of developing confidence both on and off the court, and helping student-athletes learn to solve problems on their own, is really consistent with the approach at Hollins. As a coach and leader, she is going to be a great example for our tennis student-athletes and everyone in the Hollins community.”

“I am pumped to coach the Hollins tennis team, be a part of the Hollins athletic department, and get all the students at Hollins fired up about tennis,” Rush said. “I can’t wait to become part of the rich Hollins history.”

Rush officially takes over head coaching duties in August.

Hollins Student-Athletes Earn Chi Alpha Sigma Honors

Eighteen Hollins University student-athletes have been inducted into the national honor society Chi Alpha Sigma for the 2019-20 academic year.

Chi Alpha Sigma is the first and only nonprofit organization that recognizes college student-athletes who have excelled in both the classroom and on the field of competition. Inductees must achieve junior academic standing or higher, earn a 3.4 or higher cumulative grade point average, and be a team member for at least a full season.


Hollins’ newest inductees are:

  • Juliette Baek ’20 – Tennis
  • Megan Bull ’20 – Swimming
  • Shravani Chitineni ’21 – Soccer
  • Grace Davis ’21 – Cross-Country/Swimming
  • Hanna DeVarona ’21 – Swimming
  • Elizabeth Eubank ’21 – Tennis
  • Carsen Helms ’21 – Basketball/Lacrosse
  • Logan Landfried ’21 – Riding/Lacrosse
  • Emily Miehlke ’21 – Swimming
  • Hannah Piatak ’21 – Volleyball
  • Claire Reid ’20 – Riding
  • Cecilia Riddle ’20 – Basketball/Track and Field
  • Alex Sanchez ’20 – Swimming/Riding
  • Caylin Smith ’21 – Soccer
  • Molly Sullivan ’21 – Swimming
  • Madi Szurley ’21 – Lacrosse
  • Keyazia Taylor ’21 – Basketball
  • Yasmine Tyler ’21 – Basketball

Current Hollins student-athletes who previously earned induction include:

  • Kalyn Chapman ’20 – Track and Field
  • Francesca Reilly ’20 – Cross-Country/Track and Field
  • Kendra Rich ’20 – Soccer
  • Sarah Snoddy ’20 – Tennis
  • Delaney Waller ’20 – Lacrosse
  • Kate Woodruff ’20 – Lacrosse

Founded in 1996, Chi Alpha Sigma provides outstanding student-athletes with an opportunity to become connected within a fraternal association that aligns their educational and athletic successes for a lifetime.


Kayla Surles ’22 Named to VASID All-State Second Team

Hollins Basketball’s Kayla Surles ’22 has been named to the 2020 Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) College Women’s Basketball All-State Team as a Second Team honoree.

Surles finished the 2019-20 regular season ranked second in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) in scoring with 16.6 points per game and tied for first in assists with 4.4 per game. She scored in double figures in 23 of Hollins’ 25 regular season games, which was best in the ODAC. The sophomore guard and communication studies major from Raleigh, North Carolina, was subsequently named an All-ODAC Second Team member.

Surles’ selection to the VaSID All-State Team was the Green and Gold’s first since Jasmine Greene ’13 earned First Team recognition in 2013.

VaSID is comprised of sports information professionals from NCAA Division I, II, III, NAIA, independent institutions, and community colleges located throughout Virginia. The purpose of the organization is to promote college athletics at all two- or four-year institutions. VaSID sponsors All-State teams in a number of sports in both university and college divisions.



Hollins Swimming Earns Fifth Straight Scholar All-America Team Honor

The Hollins University swim team has been selected as a Scholar All-America Team for the Fall 2019 semester by the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).

With a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.51, the Green and Gold earned the honor for the fifth straight fall term.

“We are very proud of our swimmers both in the classroom and the pool,” said Ned Skinner, head swim coach. “Each one contributed to this accolade and I am very impressed by the way they take pride in their school work. In addition, two of our student-athletes achieved a 4.0 GPA, which is outstanding.”

The CSCAA named a record 762 programs from 480 institutions to the Scholar All-America Team. The teams were selected on the basis of their fall grade point averages and represent more than 17,000 student-athletes. Over 60 percent of the selections are from women’s programs.

Founded in 1922, the CSCAA is the nation’s first organization of college coaches. Its mission is to advance the sport of swimming and diving with coaches at the epicenter of leadership, advocacy, and professional development.


Hollins Adds Track and Field to Athletic Programs

Track and field will become Hollins University’s ninth intercollegiate athletic program.

The team is expected to start competition as early as the 2019-20 indoor track and field season and will continue into the spring 2020 outdoor season.

“We are excited to add track to our slate of intercollegiate teams at Hollins,” said Director of Athletics Myra Sims. “We plan to focus on distance events at first, so we expect that it will enhance our ability to recruit for the cross country program as well.”

Robert Sullivan Jr., who was promoted to head coach of Hollins’ cross country team in August, has been tapped to lead the new track and field program. He is also currently the head cross country coach and assistant track and field coach at Lord Botetourt High School in Daleville, Virginia, and is a Level One Certified Coach for USA Track and Field.

“We are fortunate to have Coach Sullivan here to help us get the program started,” Sims noted.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to be the first track coach at Hollins,” said Sullivan. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be here during this time of growth, both athletically and academically. With this addition, I hope cross country will grow as well. It will definitely help us recruit high-quality runners because a lot of them like to run all three seasons. I look forward to having both programs build off one another.”

Track and field was chosen due to its increased participation rates across Virginia and the country. The proposal put together by Sims, using data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, shows track and field as the most popular high school sport for female participation for nine straight years.

This is the first athletic program Hollins has added since the university reinstated the cross country team in 2016.

Hollins Names New Sports Information Director

Hollins University has announced that Justin McIlwee is the school’s new sports information director. He previously served as the assistant director of athletic communication at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

“I am thrilled for Justin to join our team because of his experience and his enthusiasm for the field of sports information,” said Hollins Athletic Director Myra Sims. “He has a strong skill set that will serve Hollins athletics very well. After working in a different field for a few years, he found his calling in athletic communications and has pursued this career with great intention. I have no doubt that Justin will earn the respect and admiration of our coaches and student-athletes, and will be a strong colleague across the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.”

“I am excited to be a part of the Hollins family,” McIlwee said. “I want to thank Myra Sims for giving me the chance to come in and lead the Hollins sports information office. After meeting with her, seeing what she has done for the athletic department, and learning about her vision for the future, it was clear that Hollins was where I wanted to be. I also want to thank Richie Waggoner (whom McIlwee succeeds as SID) for laying down the foundation of the university’s sports information office over the past 13 years.”

During his time at Millsaps, McIlwee worked with all of the college’s 16 sports and was the primary contact for the Majors’ volleyball, men’s soccer, cross-country, women’s basketball, softball, and track and field teams. He got his start in collegiate sports information as the statistician for James Madison University’s women’s volleyball team during their 2017 Colonial Athletic Association championship season. He also worked for various newspapers in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley as a sports editor and general news and features writer. In 2015, while working on his Master’s degree in sports journalism at Indiana University – Purdue University of Indianapolis, McIlwee was the media relations intern for the Indianapolis Indians, the AAA minor league baseball affiliate for the Pittsburgh Pirates.