Returning home to replace a legend

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February 5, 2008

1:25 AM

__Shelton ’91 replaces her former coach as she returns to Tribe volleyball__

p. In the fall of 1990, Melissa Shelton ’91 concluded a superb Tribe volleyball career with an All-CAA tournament team selection and a CAA conference championship. Under legendary Head Coach Debbie Hill, the three-year Tribe starter earned four consecutive CAA titles, two trips to the National Invitational Volleyball Championships and a berth on the All-CAA team before graduating the following spring.

p. Seventeen years after her departure from Williamsburg, Shelton will return to the program she once captained, succeeding her former coach at the helm of Tribe volleyball. For Shelton, it is a moment that has been a long time in the making, and the coach relishes the chance to be back where she started at the College.

p. “I’m excited that the job has been kept in the family,” Shelton said. “I get to build on everything that Deb has established, not change it.”

p. Shelton arrives at a program that has grown since her time in Williamsburg, with better funding for both scholarships and facilities. However, the core philosophy of the squad has not changed, and that aspect is what made Shelton eager to return to the College.

p. “The team is still a tight-knit bunch who takes pride in its work ethic and loves to win,” she said.

p. The current squad will not be disappointed, as Shelton has experienced steady success since graduating. She took her first coaching job as an assistant at Arkansas State, where she helped the Indians earn their first-ever NCAA tournament bid in 1992. From there, she moved on to Clemson, taking the Tigers to the NCAA tournament in 1994 and 1995 before being hired as head coach by the University of Virginia.

p. At U.Va., Shelton transformed the Cavaliers into a national power, posting a 235-179 record while becoming the winningest coach in the history of the program. Accruing five 20-win seasons, Shelton took the Cavaliers to the NCAA tournament for their initial appearance in 1998, before matching that accomplishment a year later. Along the way, her players earned six honorable mention All-Americans and 26 All-ACC slots, while achieving a 100 percent graduation rate.

p. However, Shelton impishly admits that her time in Charlottesville was marred by one factor.

p. “I always felt a little like I was betraying the Tribe when I put on my Virginia gear,” she said.

p. Back in Williamsburg, that is a problem the coach will no longer have, as she goes about working toward the lofty goals she has for her alma mater.

p. Among her foremost objectives is to bring a slew of CAA titles to Kaplan Arena, while still preserving the high standard set by Hill, both on and off the court.

p. “I want to make sure I bring in young women who will represent the College and volleyball team well for the rest of their lives,” she said.

p. While Shelton has earned a vast amount of respect during her coaching career, she realizes that succeeding a strong and vibrant leader like Hill will be no easy task.

p. “As a player I had a lot of respect for Deb,” Shelton said. “She truly cared about us all and worked us hard.

p. “There will never be another Debbie Hill. The biggest challenge for me will be to keep the incredible team spirit of this program up while making the program mirror my coaching style.”

p. Despite Hill’s vast legacy, Shelton has already earned the respect of her new players and they are excited to begin playing for her.

p. “She seems dedicated to making every one of us better,” junior setter Kim Mount said. “I am confident that she will lead us to a very successful season.

p. “Our goal is to win CAAs. We know we have the players to do it and I think Melissa will help make it happen.”

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