By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on September 4, 2008 1:00 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- No one anticipated Sasha Gutor's resignation.
Especially James Goodridge.
The Mount Olive College women's assistant volleyball coach, hired less than a month ago, was promoted less than a week before the team's season opener at Carson-Newman (Tenn.) last weekend.
However, he'll gladly play the hand he's been dealt.
"I was hired as an assistant and I came in here with that mentality," said Goodridge. "I have had to adjust my style from helping here and there, and preparing for certain situations, to being ready to call the shots all the time."
Gutor announced his resignation Aug. 22. His departure comes after five seasons with the Trojans and leaves a coaching vacancy in the men's program. School officials have not moved toward hiring a new men's coach.
Goodridge was the obvious choice to guide the women's team.
"I know the girls, and I have previous head coaching experience at the high school and the club level," said Goodridge. "I have been involved with coaching in some capacity for eight years now."
The transition has been a success.
"We have had our kinks, but I think the girls understand what I expect out of them," said Goodridge. "We had a team meeting and talked about our expectations, and most of the things that they want from me I can do.
"There were a few small things that aren't a part of my coaching style, so we've had to adjust, but as a whole it has been pretty smooth."
Mount Olive returns five starters off last year's team which finished 17-15, including a 13-7 record in Conference Carolinas play. Goodridge expects leadership from middle Racey Bartley, a second-team all-conference pick last season, and senior Corie Skislak.
"We have a new coach, but that doesn't change the team's goals," said Skislak. "We still want to win the conference and make it to the (NCAA) playoffs."
The Trojans opened their season in the Carson-Newman (Tenn.) Labor Day Classic and earned a 2-2 split. Goodridge's squad defeated West Virginia Wesleyan and Augusta State (Ga.) University.
The two-day event is part of 13 consecutive road matches the Trojans will play before their home opener Sept. 23 against conference rival Barton. The schedule structure deviates from recent seasons since the NCAA realigned its Division II regions for postseason play.
Mount Olive is now grouped with teams from the South Atlantic and highly-competitive Peach Belt conferences. An unintended side effect from the change, however, is an unbalanced number of home and away matches.
"It is good for us to play such strong competition early," said Skislak. "It's a good test."
"Playing strong teams early will keep us on our toes," he said. "When you see the same teams over and over, like in conference play, you prepare for what they do well and let other aspects of the game slide.
"I am excited to get started and see what we can do. I think we will be able to play fast and compete with anybody we match up against."
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