Ramsey not Re-hired for V-Ball
BY BLAKE REHBERG
Hopefully the third time will be the charm, as the Oberlin volleyball team will see its third coach in three years next fall. A decision was handed down last week from a search committee to hire Kristen Surovjak as head volleyball and assistant lacrosse coach.
Leeza Ramsey was hired late last spring as interim position to fill the vacant head volleyball coach position. She applied for the permanent position, but a search committee made up of Women’s Soccer and Softball Head Coach Jane Wildman, Field Hockey and Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach Liz Graham, Baseball Head Coach Eric Lahetta and Rob Thompson, who sits on the general faculty committee on athletics, recommended that Surovjak be hired.
“When the search starts it’s a clean search. It basically starting from scratch in terms of looking for candidates,” Athletic Director Mike Muska said. “[Ramsey] did a perfectly fine job this year. No one has any qualms about what she did as volleyball coach, but the key is that it was a search where she was an interim candidate. She went in the pool like everybody else.”
Surovjak is a 1997 graduate of Kenyon College, where she played volleyball and lacrosse for four years and basketball for two. She was captain of volleyball her final two years, was ALL-NCAC 1st team in 1995 and honorable mention in 1994. In lacrosse she was team captain her senior year and second team All-NCAC. She received a Master of Arts from the University of Charleston in West Virginia. She has also coached at Kean University in New Jersey and Earlham College in Indiana.
“I think there were things that stood out in the process for why she was the top candidate,” Muska said.
Muska received the recommendation and decided to hire Surovjak despite ardent player support that Ramsey be hired for the position.
“The search committee had to objectively look at applications of all the candidates and had to make a decision from a department point of view,” Muska said. “As I told the kids on the team, I have never gone against a search committee since I’ve been here.”
Key to Surovjak’s qualifications are varied sports experiences. Wildman and Graham both coach two sports. According to Muska the athletics department hopes that Surovjak will be able to help alleviate that problem. However, this raised some concerns from members of the volleyball team.
“It was obvious to us that [Ramsey] was more qualified in volleyball. I think [Surovjak] may have been more qualified in other areas,” first-year team member Adrienne Zoller said. “But, I don’t understand how they can base it on that because it’s a possible benefit of another sport.”
Some members of the team were disturbed that perhaps volleyball was being sacrificed for the athletics department as a whole.
“A couple of the committee members told us they knew nothing about volleyball. Maybe they know for the whole department what’s better, but the volleyball program I think we definitely knew what would be better,” first-year team member Darci Leonhart said.
The team members have been involved with the hiring process from last semester meeting with candidates and the search committee.
“The students serve an advisory capacity to the search committee. Their advice was asked. They may not believe it was heard,” Muska said.
“We thought we had, not the final say, but a big part of the decision,” Zoller said. “When we told them how we felt and we didn’t agree with what they wanted, we basically felt like they pretty much didn’t care what we thought.”
Despite their involvement in the process, some members of the team said that the search committee wasn’t concerned with player input.
“Within our team we talked about it all the time. We knew the hiring committee and the coaching staff all wanted this other lady, so we really discussed everything. We still all felt that [Ramsey] should be the person,” Zoller said. “It almost seemed like they wanted to persuade us to focus more on [Surovjak] instead of listening to what we had say about why we wanted [Ramsey].”
The only members of the volleyball team on campus now who will be returning next year are Leonhart, Zoller, and first-year Edne Trenor. With three more years of eligibility, they all have a significant interest in the decision.
“The freshmen are very emotional about it, and you’d expect freshmen to be emotional about it. So, I’m not surprised by their reaction,” Muska said.
As varsity players who will spend many hours closely involved with their coach some are concerned about the dynamic of next year’s team and how it will affect their lives.
“We feel like we weren’t being listened to, like it wasn’t important what we thought. I think it should have been the most important because we’re the ones that are going to have to deal with the new coach,” Leonhart said. “It’s going to affect us the most. It’s going to affect our season. It’s going to affect our happiness. It doesn’t just stop with volleyball.”
There are also worries that the decision might result in there not being a team next year. Some of the players have reservations about playing for a coach other than Ramsey. It might also affect the incoming class of first-years.
“I think as a recruit I would be less likely to want to come to a program that’s going through this mess,” Leonhart said.
If there is a team next year Surovjak will have a lot of work to do to find acceptance among the team members.
“I am openp-minded,” Zoller said. “There might be some reservations, but I’ll be willing to give it my best to make it work.”
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