When an athletic director hires a coach, they usually hope the program will improve steadily.
Augusta Prep volleyball coach Rich Bland has brought home three region titles during his three years at the school.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
When Augusta Prep hired Rich Bland to coach volleyball, the school got a whole lot more.
Bland has taken his team to the state playoffs and brought home the region title in each of his three seasons at Prep.
The Lady Cavaliers have finished second, third and fourth in the state during his tenure.
In 2004, the Cavaliers set the school record for wins, breaking the 20-win barrier for the first time.
"It was a fun season," said Bland, the 2004 Columbia County News-Times Volleyball Coach of the Year.
"We finished lower this season than in each of the past two, but I had the most fun this year."
The former UCLA player said the players worked together this season as well as any other team in his three years at Prep.
"Coach Bland makes the game a lot of fun," said captain Mary Hannah Lynn, an All-State player. "He brings so much intelligence to the game. He knows what he wants but still creates a loose, fun environment."
Under Bland's direction, the Cavaliers beat every team in the state this past season, including perennial powers Dominion Christian and North Cobb Christian. This season was the first time Prep has beaten North Cobb.
Prep came up short at the state tournament, with the title eluding Bland again.
"If you go into the tournament without clicking on all cylinders, then you would be in trouble," Bland said. "We were in trouble. We picked a bad time to play bad."
The Prep team entered the season with two goals: a region title and a state title.
Because the state title eluded them, Bland said his team will be challenged to get back next season.
Prep will be losing All-State players Lynn, Deanna Reid and Katelyn Gibbs, among others.
"Coach Bland is such a great coach," Lynn said. "He will be OK with whoever he has to coach."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.