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.



Hollins Names Skinner Head Swim Coach

After a nationwide search, Hollins has announced Ned Skinner will become the university’s head swim coach and director of the Northen Swim Center beginning August 1. He succeeds Patrick Richardson, who led the swim program for the past four years.

“I am absolutely thrilled that our current and future Hollins swimmers will enjoy the expertise of an experienced and successful coach like Ned Skinner,” said Director of Athletics Myra Sims. “When you look at his background, it is clear that Ned is extremely knowledgeable in the technical aspects of the sport. Yet, he is also invested in mentoring student-athletes outside of the pool, and in treating each swimmer as an individual. Aside from his collegiate coaching experience, Ned has an extensive history with camps, clinics, and private lessons. He is very well-connected with youth swimmers and coaches in the region and will be able to broaden the reach we have in recruiting for the swim program. I am confident we are getting a coach who can take Hollins swimming to the next level.”

Skinner comes to Hollins after a distinguished, 20-year coaching career at Virginia Tech. Starting in 1998, Skinner led the Hokies to four conference championships while seeing more than 100 student-athletes turn in All-American performances. In addition to the All-Americans, Skinner coached 50 individual conference champions, a trio of Olympians, and a member of the USA National Team. During an eight-year stretch from 2008-2016, Skinner coached five different USA Olympic Trial swimmers who reached the semi-final and final rounds. In 2016-17, Skinner also served as a coach on the United States Swimming National Team staff. In addition to collegiate and national team coaching, Skinner presented at multiple swim camps and clinics as well as various national conventions and conferences, and founded and served as director of the Maroon and Orange Swim Camps from 2000-2018. In 2004, Skinner earned his Ph.D in education curriculum and instruction from Virginia Tech.

“I am very excited to become a part of Hollins University and serve in the athletics department,” Skinner said. “I felt an immediate connection with Myra Sims and am looking forward to working with her.  The opportunity to teach classes and be the aquatics director will be enjoyable new challenges for me. I am also impressed by the other coaches and administrators and feel a real camaraderie among the staff, which is important to me. The current group of swimmers is eager to get started and I am excited by their unity and commitment to the program.”

Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, Skinner served as director of swimming at the College of William & Mary, a position he held from 1994-1998. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Louisiana State University before launching his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ohio University. Upon receiving his M.S. in athletic administration degree at OU, Skinner got his first chance to be a head coach at Central Connecticut State University.


New Strength and Conditioning Position “Is a Tremendous Step Forward for Hollins Athletics”

Hollins University Director of Athletics Myra Sims has announced that Leslie Williams is the school’s new strength and conditioning coach. She will begin working on a part-time basis with Hollins’ athletic teams and student-athletes this semester.

Williams comes to Hollins from Virginia Tech, where she has served as a coordinator of curricular initiatives since January 2017. Previously, she was a graduate assistant in strength and conditioning and an assistant strength and conditioning coach for Olympic Sports.

“Adding this strength and conditioning position is a tremendous step forward for Hollins athletics,” says Sims. “Leslie is a great fit for our program, having the background and experience that will allow her to provide a quality training program for our student-athletes.”

Williams completed her undergraduate degree in exercise and sport science at Bluefield College, where she was a four-year student-athlete in tennis. After graduation, she spent a year at Coastal Carolina University as a strength and conditioning intern before earning her master’s degree at Virginia Tech.

“I am honored to be a part of the Hollins University sports performance team, and look forward to serving the student-athletes through comprehensive program design, proactive training, and practical application,” Williams says. “My goal is to reduce the risk of injury while addressing and enhancing physical performance and increasing mental and physical toughness. My training philosophy is rooted upon ground-based, multi-joint movements that simulate realistic competition.”

Hollins Basketball Announces “Rising Star” as New Head Coach

Emilee Dunton has been named the new head basketball coach at Hollins University. She succeeds Jenny Logan, who left the basketball program in August to become head coach at Eastern Mennonite University.

“I am humbled and honored to get this opportunity, and I’d like to thank [Director of Athletics] Myra Sims and the search committee for entrusting me to lead the program,” Dunton stated. “It is an exciting time to be a part of the Hollins community with Myra and President Pareena Lawrence. I truly believe that with the current administration and the quality of academics, the women’s basketball program will gain respect within the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC).”

Dunton comes to Hollins after a successful three-year stint as head women’s basketball coach at Liberty High School in Bedford, Virginia. She led the team to two conference championship appearances and was selected as the Conference 30 Coach of the Year in 2016. She is no stranger to the ODAC, having been a student-athlete at Randolph College, where she graduated in 2015. While a member of the WildCat basketball team, she was a captain and a key component of the 2014 squad that tied the program record for wins in a season. She also earned Academic All ODAC and VaSID Academic All State honors.

“I am thrilled to have Emilee become our next head basketball coach,” said Sims. “She is an energetic and committed young leader who did an outstanding job with the program at Liberty High School. A number of well-respected coaches have expressed a high level of respect for her basketball IQ and her ability to effectively transition into collegiate coaching. Several of her references have called her a ‘rising star’ in the college coaching ranks. She has demonstrated a strong vision for our program and convinced us during the interview process of her ability to effectively sell that vision to current and future Hollins players.”


Kosicki to Lead Hollins Tennis

After a nationwide search, Hollins University Director of Athletics Myra Sims has announced that Alex Kosicki will become the new head coach of the Hollins tennis program. He will take over the day-to-day operations on August 6.

Kosicki comes to Hollins from Division III Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, where he had served as head tennis coach since 2016. Highlights of his career as Wesleyan include the USA South Conference Sportsmanship Award and the ITA Regional Community Service and Outreach Award, both in 2017. In addition, seven different players last year earned ITA All-Academic status, and his team won the Wesleyan Team GPA Award with a cumulative 3.55 GPA. In addition to his tennis duties, Kosicki also served as head coach of the cross country team after Wesleyan brought the program back after a four-year hiatus.

“I am very pleased that Alex will be leading our tennis program.” Sims said. “He is a relentless recruiter, has a strong reputation for developing the tennis skills of individual players, and is focused on creating a great team dynamic in which student-athletes can thrive.  He is committed to building community within his team and within the athletic department.”

Prior to coaching at Wesleyan, Kosicki served as the associate head tennis coach for both the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Western New England University (WNEU) in Massachusetts. WNEU teams won over 100 matches during his eight-year tenure. From 2013-16, Kosicki also coached women’s basketball at Holyoke Community College and spent a year as their interim sports information director.

Sims noted, “With more than 10 years in Division III tennis, Alex brings the experience and knowledge that Hollins needs right now.  Hollins has enjoyed tremendous accomplishment in tennis in the recent past and I am confident that Alex is the right person to lead the program into the next era of success.”

Kosicki is a 2008 graduate of Springfield College, where he was a four-year member of the tennis team.

“I would like to thank Myra Sims and the rest of the search committee for this wonderful opportunity,” he said. “Hollins has a reputation of excellence, both academically and athletically, and I am really excited to be a part of this culture. I look forward to meeting the team and becoming a part of the Hollins community.”