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Meet The Staff

Bear Grassl - 18 Mizuno

Bear Grassl returns for his 16th year as the Head Coach of the Sonoma State University volleyball program in 2017.  The 2008 CCAA Coach of the Year, Grassl has led the Seawolves to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past eight seasons, including the program’s first-ever appearance in the West Region Championship match in 2011 and the West Coast Regional Champions in 2015.  He has compiled an overall record 276-154 in 15 seasons at the helm of the program.  A 1991 graduate of Sonoma State, Grassl was Head Coach at El Molino High School from 1992-2001.  During that span, he guided the Lions to six Sonoma County League championships, seven North Coast Section titles, five Northern California championships, five appearances in the state Championship game, and one California State Championship  in 1999.  

His career coaching mark at El Molino was an impressive 267-78.  Every single year Grassl coached in high school, he reached the North Coast Section Championship game.  Only once did his team Play in the NorCal Championship and not win it.  El Molino missed the chance to go to the State Championship game in 1993 when Kerri Walsh came to El Molino high school and beat Grassl and the Lions in 4 games.  Grassl still holds records for most Section Final appearances in a row, as well as most State Championship appearances for a team from Sonoma, Napa, and the counties all the way to the Oregon border, having lost that distinction in Marin County when one of his former players led their team to the State Championship game more times as of 2012.

In addition to his success on the court, Grassl’s teams at SSU have also displayed exceptional effort in the classroom in recent years, earning numerous Academic All-District honors, among other prestigious scholastic awards.  In 2011, one of his players (Keala Peterson) earned the nation’s top scholastic honor — the Capital One Academic All-America of the Year Award — as well as the CCAA’s Female Scholar Athlete of the Year honor.  In 15 seasons at Sonoma State, Grassl has coached nine All-Americans and countless All-Conference and All-Region performers.

As the head coach of the Empire Volleyball Club, Bear has mentored high school coaches from Sonoma, Marin, and Napa counties.  In his 22 year coaching junior volleyball he is among the longest-running club coaches in Northern California, having helped hundreds of players reach the their goal of playing volleyball at the college level.  No fewer than ten of Bear’s former players are currently coaching in college, not to mention the many in the high school and club coaching ranks.  In addition, many Empire athletes are playing at the semi-professional level in Europe.  Bear has been with Empire Volleyball Club for 25 years.  In his tenure with Empire, Bear has coached at all levels of the program. His 18 Mizuno teams have been perennial fixtures in the NCVA Gold Division since he began coaching at the 18’s level.  Bear’s teams have finished in the top five in the region for nine years running. He is currently the club Co-Director and Head Coach.

Michaela Ebben - 17 Mizuno

Michaela came up through the Empire program and made her mark as a prep athlete. She accepted a volleyball scholarship to the University of Arizona, competing for the Wildcats as a top collegiate player. Michaela has coached across the age groups at Empire over the years, being utilized by many staffers for her setting expertise. Michaela is currently the Assistant Coach at Sonoma State University.

Kathy O’Neil - 16 Mizuno

Kathy has a long history with the sport of volleyball. Kathy started coaching a high school varsity team immediately after finishing her collegiate career. Kathy began coaching club volleyball with Empire soon after in 1992 and has since been involved in all aspects of running the club. She currently serves as club Co-Director.

Kathy has been with the top Empire 16 and under team since 1997. She has led her teams to the NCVA Gold division every season of her tenure. On the national scene, Kathy’s teams have had multiple Championship bracket finishes at the Volleyball Festival National Championships and at the AAU National Championships. Her teams have earned Junior Olympic and Junior Nationals bids. She has trained numerous All-American and Fab 50’s athletes. Kathy has coached with USA Volleyball in the High Performance Program since 2000.  

She has been on the staff of several top collegiate camp programs and has worked with the Olympic Festival organization as well as the regional High Performance program. Kathy is CAP (Coaching Accreditation Program) certified through USA Volleyball. Kathy is a Professor at Santa Rosa Junior College in the Communication Studies Department.

Ally Deal --15 Mizuno

Ally (Sather) Deal is an Empire alumnus out of Maria Carillo High School.  Ally earned numerous honors during her prep career, culminating with the Empire MVP award her senior year.  Ally chose to stay close to home for her collegiate career, competing at Sonoma State University as an outside hitter.  Ally was a four-time All CCAA performer and a two-time All Region honoree.  Ally broke the career kill record at SSU, which had stood for fourteen years prior to Ally’s arrival on the scene.  Ally was selected to the AVCA All American Team during her senior year. 

Ally has been coaching with Empire for the past eight years in the under 13, 14, 15 and 16 programs.  In 2013 Ally returned to her alma mater, Maria Carillo High School, to take over as the Head Coach of the outstanding Puma Varsity program.

Daryl Kapis --Lead Training and Technical Coach (14, 13, 12-Black Teams)

Daryl has coached at the collegiate level for 18 years and in 2017 he is on staff with Sonoma State.  In 2016 he was on staff at the University of San Francisco as an assistant coach, but continues to teach in the Kinesiology Department.   

Prior to moving back home to the Bay Area in 2016 he was the Head Coach and Assistant Athletic Director at perennial power Division II Hawaii Pacific University located in Honolulu, Hawaii for ten years. Kapis' highlights include coaching two All-Americans at the middle and libero position, and also leading his team to set the defensive record per set for Division II with 20.33 digs per set. He also led the strength and conditioning program for his players and served as the head coach for the beach volleyball club team. 

Before he packed his bags and moved to Hawaii he was the Head Volleyball Coach at San Jose City College where he led his team to its first and only State Championship tournament appearance in 2005 where his team went 25-6 and finished 5th in the state.   Daryl has also coached at the Division I level making stops at UCLA, San Jose State and the University of San Francisco. 

USA Volleyball recognized Daryl's potential back in 1999 and, since that time, Daryl has worked at all levels of the USA Youth and Junior National pipeline programs. Most recently this past summer his team received a Gold Medal at the A2 camp and tournament in Colorado Springs. 

Daryl has an impressive record of success in club volleyball as both an administrator and a coach.  Daryl has locally worked with Vision, City Beach, Yahoo,  and Golden Bear.  In Hawaii Daryl was affiliated with Jammers Volleyball Club and with the Junior Jammers clinics for young aspiring players. In 2002 he took his 17's team to a 5th place finish in the Open Division of Junior Nationals. 

As a high school coach Daryl coached at Archbishop Mitty High School for three years and assisted in taking the team to the Division I State Championships, and two strong runs into the Northern California State playoffs.   Daryl was the Head Varsity Volleyball Coach at his alma mater at Aptos High School taking them to a shared Santa Cruz Athletic League title, and a run into the CCS playoffs. 

Daryl is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, along with being a certified power lifting Instructor.  Daryl has had multiple articles published in Performance Conditioning for Volleyball.  Daryl was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Archbishop Mitty High School for six years, and prior to that he interned at Stanford University where he assisted with the strength and conditioning of the Men's and Women's Volleyball programs.  

Daryl earned his bachelor's degree from San Francisco State University and a master's from Saint Mary's of Moraga, in the Kinesiology field.   He has taught at University of San Francisco, San Jose State, San Jose City College, Mission College as well as Archbishop Mitty and Aptos High School. 

Daryl is the Director of the Empire Juniors Volleyball clinics which will be working on teaching volleyball fundamentals to boys and girls ages 7-12. 

Ryan Hughes --Associate Head Coach 14, 13, 12-Black Teams

Ryan Hughes is a Sonoma State alumni who returned to coaching Empire in 2014 after living in Los Angeles for five years. A founding member of the Sonoma State Men's Volleyball team, Ryan was an all-league selection for multiple years and a nationally awarded libero. He has helped build multiple volleyball programs in the area including Sonoma Academy, is currently the head coach of Petaluma High School, and assists at the Santa Rosa Junior College. Ryan's passion for the game of volleyball is easily seen as he is constantly found somewhere coaching, learning, or playing. Ryan is a local ICU nurse and we are very lucky to have him as part of the Empire family.

Morgan Annala --Associate Head Coach Empire 14, 13, 12-Black Teams

Morgan Annala joins Empire for her first coaching season, assisting Empire's 13 Black team. Morgan is a Middle Blocker for the Sonoma State team.

Chris Woodbury--Associate Head Coach Empire 14, 13, 12-Black Teams

Chris grew up in Sonoma County and attended Analy High School.  She played four years of volleyball at Analy. After graduating from Analy, Chris attended Santa Rosa Junior College where she played for the Bear Cubs on the SRJC women’s team.  Chris transferred to Chico State University to finish her education.  She is currently and has been for the past 22 years, a Physical Education teacher.  Twenty of those years have been at Rincon Valley Middle School, where she teaches 7th grade PE.  

Chris began coaching at Analy.  She has been a very successful coach at RVMS for the past 20 years.  She has continued her success at the high school level, coaching at Maria Carrillo for four years.  She is currently in her seventh year coaching at Empire.  Chris has been married for 25 years and has two children.  Daughter Mikaela played for Empire and played at Butte College.

Bob O’Neil - 16 Mizuno Assistant Coach

Bob has been on the staff of Empire for the past sixteen years – but his coaching career spans over forty years! In addition to volleyball, Bob has expertise coaching basketball and track. Bob serves as the Director of our non-profit foundation providing opportunities for fundraising activities for our athletes. Bob is also in charge of all of the Empire Wear and club uniforms. Bob has served as a camp coach for elite collegiate programs including Stanford University.

He has been part of the USA staff at Junior National and Youth National team tryouts. Bob has Co-Coached the top Empire 16 and Under team with Kathy O’Neil since 1997 with great success. Prior to his retirement Bob was a career educator in the Sonoma Valley Unified District serving as Department Chair for Physical Education and as school Activities Director.  Bob has been on the Varsity coaching staff at Sonoma Valley High School, Analy High School, and Maria Carillo High School.

Shawn Wilson

Shawn comes to Empire with a wealth of playing and coaching experience. Shawn played collegiate volleyball for both Division I Sac State University and for Humboldt State. Shawn entered the coaching ranks and served as both an Assistant and a Graduate Assistant Coach for 5 years at Humboldt State. Shawn was also the Head Volleyball Coach at College of the Redwoods.

David Irving

David Irving joins us after spending time in his hometown of Chico. At Chico State, he worked as an assistant coach and statistical analyst for the  Women’s Volleyball team. Before coaching for the wildcats David spent a year as an assistant volleyball coach and strength and conditioning coach at Butte College for the 2012 season. Prior to coaching at Butte, he attended Azusa Pacific University (APU) where he received his bachelors in Physical Education. In 2011 Irving coached the APU women’s club team. David has spent his last two summers coaching volleyball camps around the country (California, Arizona, Oregon, Nebraska, and Michigan) with Gold Medal Squared. 

David is assisting the 16 Black team and the Maria Carrillo High Varsity program.

Stephanie Mudd

An Empire alumnus, Stephanie started her coaching career at Willowside Middle School while still in high school.  She played at Analy High School and then went on to coach at her alma mater.  Stephanie has coached the Analy freshman team for the past two years.  She was the Assistant Coach for Empire 15 Mizuno in 2013 and has served as the head coach in the under 14s and under 15s programs.

Lexi Mudd

Lexi Mudd joins us in her first coaching season after being an Empire alumni. Lexi had a stellar career locally in Sonoma County at Analy High School, before starting her collegiate career at Sonoma State. Lexi is assisting Empire's 15 Mizuno team. 

Andrea Barnes

Andrea Barnes is in her second season with Empire in the under 16s and 15s programs.

Tayler Moore

Tayler Moore joins Empire for her second season in the under 14s program. Tayler, a Sonoma State Seawolf is original from Loomis, CA.

Jeff Nielson

Jeff returns to Empire after a 5 year hiatus. An experienced coach in the Empire, Jeff lead the Maria Carrillo High program for 12 years including, three NCS titles and 10 league championships. In 2015, he took over the Cardinal Newman High program, where he led the Cardinals to their first ever League Co-Championship.

Emily Papale

Emily Papale is an Empire Alum from Santa Rosa. Emily was a stand out player at local high school, Cardinal Newman, earning First Team All-League honors her senior season. She went on to play at Academy of Art, where she played in every set of her Freshman and Sophomore seasons then joined the SSU squad. As a Seawolf, she made major contributions her Junior and Senior seasons. Including in 2015 to a CCAA championship.

Kelsey McIntire

Kelsey McIntire joins Empire as a Head Coach in 2017. Originally from Hermosa Beach, Kelsey is a standout player for the Sonoma State Seawolves.