Coach Bear Grassl returns to Empire Volleyball Club for his 27th year as a coach, and Co-Director for the top club in the North Bay area.
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.
This year Coach Grassl returned for his 17th year as the head coach of the Sonoma State University volleyball program.
The four-time CCAA Coach of the Year has registered an overall record 276-154 in 15 seasons at the helm of the SSU program, including an incredible 198-70 record in the last nine years.
Last season in 2016, Sonoma State went 15-12 and finished second in the CCAA North Division standings with a 12-6 mark, but the Seawolves missed the NCAA tournament, ending an eight-year streak of appearing in the national postseason event.
In 2015, the CCAA Coach of the Year guided the Seawolves to their second straight CCAA title, their first CCAA Tournament championship in the conference's inaugural postseason event, and an appearance in the NCAA Division II Volleyball Championship Tournament for the eighth straight season, compiling a program-best 26-4 record.
In 2014, Grassl took the program to new heights, capturing the CCAA title for the first time in Sonoma State history and becoming the first team other than Cal State San Bernardino in nine seasons to win the CCAA banner. The Seawolves continued on to the NCAA West Regional in Nampa, Idaho as the No. 7 seed, and after upsetting No. 2 Alaska Anchorage and No. 6 Cal State San Bernardino in the first two rounds, they captured the regional championship after a 3-1 win over No. 8 seed Dixie State to advance to the NCAA Division II Championships in Louisville, Ky. Despite taking a 2-0 lead over Southwest Minnesota State in the national quarterfinal, Grassl and company saw their magical season come to an end after losing the next three sets in heartbreaking fashion.
The Seawolves, however, placed two of their players on the All-America Team, including the 2014 CCAA Most Valuable Player, senior Kelsey Hull, and the 2013 CCAA Most Valuable Player, junior Caylie Seitz. Hull was also later named the 2014-15 CCAA Female Athlete of the Year despite missing the first six games of the 2014 season due to injury. She finished the year with the fourth-most kills per set (3.67) and points per set (4.38) in the conference while leading the CCAA in service aces with 40 (an average of 0.46 per set). Defensively, she recorded the third-most digs on the team with 289 (an average of 3.32 per set), to go along with 37 total blocks (0.43 blocks/set) and a .943 serve reception percentage.
In 2013, Grassl led the Seawolves to their most-ever wins in a season, sporting a 26-6 record, including an 18-4 mark in CCAA matches. Sharing CCAA Co-Coach of the Year honors with longtime Cal State San Bernardino coach Kim Cherniss, Grassl guided Sonoma State to just its third NCAA postseason victory in the team's history with a 3-0 triumph over Western Washington in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, but the Seawolves would see their record-breaking year come to an end with a 3-0 loss to Cherniss' Coyotes in the regional semifinal.
Also in 2013, Grassl coached the program's first CCAA Most Valuable Player in sophomore outside hitter Caylie Seitz, who led all outside hitters in the west region with a .330 hitting percentage and ranked among the top five in the CCAA in kills (443) and points per set (4.3). She also ranked eighth among outside hitters in the nation in hitting percentage and 16th in the nation in kills per set. Her 443 kills also broke the SSU sophomore kills record of 401 that was set in 2009. Seitz, along with three of her teammates -- Kelsey Hull, Madelyn Densberger and Hayley Ross -- earned AVCA All-American recognition in 2013, the most in program history.
The 2009 Seawolves got out to the best start in program history, winning their first 11 matches on their way to a 23-8 overall record and their highest national ranking ever. Led by a core group of local players and a roster that featured a pair of All-Americans, the Seawolves advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, where they were upset by Cal State L.A..
The Seawolves then burst on to the scene in 2008 when they won 14 of their first 15 matches. As the season went on, Sonoma State stayed close in the CCAA title race but went 9-5 the rest of the season and finished tied for second in the conference (15-5). However, the Seawolves had a stellar home record, going 14-1 on the hardwood of the Seawolf Gym. Sonoma State also appeared in the NCAA Division II West Regional Tournament for the first time since 1993 but a first-round loss to conference-foe Chico State knocked the Seawolves out of national title contention.
Grassl took the reigns in 2002 and led the Seawolves to a 15-14 record. He repeated the feat in 2003 (15-14) and then went 14-12 in ‘04. In 2005 and 2006, the Seawolves struggled in the win column playing in the tough California Collegiate Athletic Association with a young squad.
In 15 seasons at Sonoma State, Grassl has coached 18 All-Americans and countless All-Conference and All-Region performers.
In addition to his success on the court, Grassl's teams 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.
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 and one California state championship, in 1999. His career coaching mark at El Molino was an impressive 267-78.
Daryl has coached volleyball for 26 years and at the collegiate level for 19 years. Currently he is on staff for his third year as an assistant coach at Sonoma State. In 2016 he was on staff at the University of San Francisco as an assistant coach.
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.
After three seasons of having teams under a .500 record the rebuild was over. Coach Kapis' teams never looked back and posted winning seasons in each of his remaining seven seasons at the helm. His top team in 2010 finished with an overall record of 18-6, and finished with a 12-4 conference record.
Hawaii Pacific University's top wins were ironically against #12 in the country Sonoma State in 2015, and a 2013 win vs. #4 in the country BYU-Hawaii, who eventually lost in the National Championship Match.
Coach Kapis 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, including being an apprentice coach with the Youth National Team. Most recently has has been the Associate Head Coach for the A2 programs over the summer 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 power lifting Instructor with USA Weightlifting. Daryl was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Archbishop Mitty High School for six years. Prior to Archbishop Mitty he interned at Stanford University where he assisted with the strength and conditioning of the Men's and Women's Volleyball programs. Daryl has also had two articles published in Performance Conditioning for Volleyball.
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 current teaches at the University of San Francisco, and has also taught at San Jose State, San Jose City College, Mission College, and Aptos High School.
Daryl is the Director of the Empire Juniors Volleyball clinics which works on teaching volleyball fundamentals to boys and girls ages 8-13.
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. Her Junior National A1 2018 team earned a Silver medal at the 2018 High Performance Championships.
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.
Bob has been on the staff of Empire for the past seventeen 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.
Coach Jeff Nielson joins the Empire Coaching staff for his eleventh season. Coach Nielson came in the current Athletic Director and Head Volleyball Coach at Cardinal Newman High School.
He has been coaching for nearly 30 years at the high school and at the collegiate level. He was previously the Head Coach at Maria Carrillo High School from 2001-2012. In his 11 seasons he led the Pumas to 11 North Bay League titles, 3 NCS Championships, and played in the Northern California Championships semi-finals on three occasions.
He was instrumental in the creation of the North Bay League Championship post season tournament in 2010 and continues today. Jeff was also selected as the NCS Honor Coach of the Year
in 2010. Jeff attended San Diego State University and Western Colorado University where he earned degrees in Kinesiology and History in 1996 and his professional teaching credential at Sonoma State University in 1997.
Violet Johnson enters her thrid year as an Empire Volleyball Club Coach. Currently Coach Johnson is the Junior Varsity Coach at Montgomery High School, and is the Head Coach of the 7th and 8th grade teams at Slater Middle School
Academically Coach Johnson is currently attending Santa Rosa Junior College where she is a 'libero' for the Bear Cubs.
Violet has been with Empire Volleyball Club for 11 years as a player/coach and has a passion for volleyball and loves to share her knowledge of the game.
This is Sabrina Stephens second year coaching for Empire Volleyball Club. Coach Stephens played for Empire while also played for four years at Analy High school. While at Analy High School she was an All-League Libero for the Tigers.
Currently Sabrina is playing at the Santa Rosa Junior College under coach Ally Deal.
Sabrina had been an assistant coach for Hillcrest middle school for 2 years.
Sabrina is a second degree black belt in Taekwondo. Coach Stephens has practiced the martial art for fourteen years, and has taught for nine years.
Grassl, an original Empire Volleyball Club athlete in 1989, returns as the 16-Premier team for the second year in a row.
As a three sport participant she was the Press Democrat female athlete of the year in 1990. Her four year career as a scholarship athlete at St. Mary's college ended with her holding the career kill record that stands to this day. After two seasons playing with VC Marl in Germany, she returned home to Coach Miramonte High school to the CIF State Championship game in 1993. Since 1996 she has been teaching math at El Molino High school in Forestville where she coached the volleyball team to the section championship game from 1996 to 2001. In 1997,1998,1999, 2001 she coached the team all the way to the CIF state championship. amongst the players she coached are many college athletes as well as several current college coaches.5`8
Coach Brown joins the Empire Volleyball Club-North, and will be leading the 16-Black North team for the 2019 club season. Coach Brown is currently in her second year as the Head Volleyball Coach at her alma mater Ukiah High School where she played for four years. In just her second year, her 2018 team won the league title. Prior to taking over the varsity program Coach Amanda spent one year as the JV coach, and two years as the freshman head coach.
At the club level Amanda has coached for four years at the 18’s, 16’s, and 14’s division for the Mendo Lake Spikers.
Coach Brown played for Mendocino College as an outside hitter, and then transferred to Cal State Monterey Bay, where she graduated in 2002. Coach Amanda attained a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and is currently the 6th grade teacher at Pomolita Middle School.
Amanda has a passion for the sport of volleyball that started in elementary school. She continues to share that passion with all young players she works with.
Ally (Sather) Deal is an Empire alumnus out of Maria Carillo High School. Coach Deal is currently in her first season as the Head Volleyball Coach at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Coach Deal 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 ten 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.
Coach Payton returns to Empire Volleyball Club for her second season. Last season Payton was the assistant coach for the 15-Adidas team under the tutelage of Ally Deal Head Coach of Santa Rosa Junior College.
A long time Empire Volleyball Club member Payton is in her third year of coaching club volleyball.
A 2017 graduate from Maria Carrillo High School where she played three years under Ally Deal, Coach Jones was a first team All-League libero her Junior (2015) and Senior (2016) year.
Coach Jones was also named MVP of Maria Carrillo High School for her senior season -Currently Coach Jones is a member of the Santa Rosa Junior College Team. Academically she is a junior and is studying molecular biology and is planning on becoming a physician assistant
Coach Ryan Hughes returns to Empire for his ninth season, to once again coach the 14-Black team for the fourth straight year.
Currently Ryan just finished his fifth season as Head Coach at Petaluma High School, and is the assistant coach for the Petlauma Junior High Programs. In his four years at Petlauma High School his programs finished 2nd in the SCL each of those years. Petaluma High School went to NCS playoffs each of those years. Coach Hughes also started the Sonoma Academy High School program in 2006.
Concurrently Hughes also serves as an assistant coach for the Santa Rosa Junior College program which made the Junior College playoffs in 2017.
Ryan Hughes graduated from Sonoma State in 2009, where he acquired three Bachelor's degrees. Currently he is working on his nursing license, while concurrently working at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in the Intensive Care Unit.
Coach Hughes played for the men's program at Sonoma State University. In his time he was awarded the libero of the year in league play in 2006, and was a Nationally recognized libero for Division II club programs.
Coach Hughes restarted the men's program at Sonoma State after a 12 year hiatus, which eventually won the Men's National Club Championship in 2009.
Coach Destiny Clark will be starting her second year coaching at Empire Volleyball Club as the Head Coach of the 14-Gold team. Destiny is a current freshman at Santa Rosa Junior College. A current graduate of Windsor High School Destiny was a four year player on Varsity, and was named team Captain her last two seasons. During the four years, Destiny has achieved team MVP, First-team All-League, won an NCS title, and went to the state tournament.
For Club, this will be Destiny’s fifth year at Empire Volleyball Club (16-1s, 16-1s, 17-1s, and 18-1s) to complete a full Club career of six years. She has also been an Empire Spring League coach for four years.
Coach Destiny also has just finished a very successful season of coaching Cardinal Newman high school’s freshman team.
Destiny has assisted Coach Bear and Coach Daryl Kapis at Windsor Middle School for three years for North Valley League. She has also been an Empire Spring League coach for three years. In addition to assistant coaching, Destiny has been a ref for West County middle school league for three years.
Coach Logan Peck joins Empire Volleyball Club in 2020.This is her second year of coaching club volleyball. Last season Logan coached for Aftershock VBC, and this will be her first year coaching for Empire Volleyball Club. Last season Logan coached at the 14's age level.
Logan played for Empire since she was 14.
A 2017 graduate of Montgomery high school where she played varsity for all four years. She received the title of second team all league her senior year.
Currently, she is a member of the Santa Rosa Junior College volleyball team under coach Ally Deal. Academically, she is pursuing an associates degree in Business Administration, and plans to transfer to a four year university in the fall of 2020 to pursue her bachelor’s degree.
Bio coming Shortly
Bio coming shortly
Kaitlin Manning enters her second year with Empire Volleyball Club. Last season Coach Kaitlin was the Head Coach of the the Empire 12-North team.
A current team manager for the Ukiah High School Volleyball program, Coach Manning played for Ukiah High School for three years where she received the Coaches Award two seasons in a row, along with earning the Scholar Athlete award three years in a row. A versatile athlete for the Wildcats she plays the rightside, setter, and defensive specialist positions. A former Mendo Lake Spikers player, she helped coach Spiker camps for the 5th-8th graders.
Academically Coach Manning is on track for receiving her CTE (Career Technical Education) certification stamp on her final transcripts upon graduation.
Coach Kierstin Andrews originally from Rohnert Park, California returns for her fifth year of coaching at Empire Volleyball Club and first year in 13s, with three previous years in 14's and one in 17's. Coach Andrews is also one of the primary coaches for the Empire Juniors programs that are run all throughout the North Bay.
Coach Andrews played for Empire Volleyball Club for five years and played on each of the 13's-17's teams.
Kierstin excelled on the court and in the classroom at Rincon Valley Christian where she was All-league honorable mention as a Freshman, and first team All-league for Sophomore, Junior and Senior seasons.
Currently Coach Andrews is working on her undergraduate degree at Sonoma State University and is majoring in Kinesiology and minoring in Early Childhood Studies. Kierstin has earned Dean's Highest Honors for her first two semesters.
Locally Kierstin has assisted with elementary, middle, and high school programs, while also being very instrumental in our own Empire Spring Season programs for the past six years.
Once Coach Andrews graduates from college she plans to go to acquire her Doctorate of Physical Therapy, ,and to become a pediatric physical therapist.
Sharon Lochert joins the Empire Volleyball Coaching staff in 2020 as the Head Coach of the 13-Gold team, previously serving as a Head Coach at West County Volleyball Club in Sebastopol, CA.
The Current Head Coach for the 6th-7th-8th grade teams at Hillcrest Middle School, coach Sharon has been coaching at Hillcrest for ten years, and prior to that at Willowside Junior High for two more seasons.
A Montgomery High School graduate, Coach Sharon went on to play at San Francisco State University as a pin hitter for the 1980 and 1981 seasons. Coach Sharon finished her career earning her degree in Business Administration.
Coach Sharon was also the Director of Star Volleyball Camps, from 2013-2016.
Coach Binder returns to Empire Volleyball Club for her second season and will be Head Coach of the 12-Black team. In 2019 Coach Binder was the Head Coach of the first 11's team for Empire Volleyball Club.
Coach Binder is the current Varsity Assistant Coach and Social Studies teacher at Cardinal Newman High School. Before she brought her talents to Cardinal Newmann she was previously the Head Varsity volleyball coach at El Molino High School for four years. During that time she took them to both the NCS and NorCal tournaments, as well as earning them several SCL League Titles.
At the club level she coached for Empire Volleyball Club for two seasons in the early 2000's. At the collegiate level she was a graduate assistant volleyball coach for Sonoma State University
Elsa grew up in Santa Cruz, Ca. She played at Harbor High School where her team won the 1992 Division II High School Volleyball Championships. She earned 1st Team All America honors in both High School and Club in the 1995-96 school year. Her 1996 Team Mizuno Club Team won the Jr. National Championship in Orlando, Florida.
While earning a full scholarship at The University of the Pacific, Elsa earned 1st Team Division I All America honors for the 1998 and 1999 seasons. The 1999 team was a Semi Finalist in the Division I Final Four in Honolulu, Hawaii. During her High School and Collegiate careers, Elsa played for USA Volleyball, completing many training camps and tours, including World University Games, Junior NORCECAS, and Olympic Fest.
Elsa ended her athletic career playing professional volleyball in the US and abroad, as well as a season on the Beach tour.
Elsa lives in Windsor with her husband, Todd, and their children Dakota and Summer.
Coach Tommy Wong-Araki joins the Empire Coaching Staff for his second season. Coach Tommy is currently the Junior Varsity Head Coach at Cardinal Newman High School.
Tommy began playing volleyball as a seventh grader at W.T. Eich Middle School, where his love for the game originated. Coach Tommy went on to become an All-League Setter/Libero in high school at Oakmont High School in Roseville, Ca. There, Coach Tommy led his team to two straight league titles (both undefeated league seasons). Tommy played his high school club for NCVC. Coach Tommy went on to play three years on the Sonoma State Men’s Volleyball team where he was on two silver medal teams.
Academically, Coach Tommy is finishing up an online degree in Economics. Coach Tommy looks forward to growing the game in the region!
Chris Woodbury returns to Empire Volleyball Club for her eighth season and to once again lead up the 12-Gold team.
Current Head Coach of the Varsity program at Maria Carrillo High School, 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.
Chris has been married for 26 years and has two children. Daughter Mikaela played for Empire and played at Butte College.
Coach Hannah Andrews joins the Empire Volleyball Coaching staff for her third season in leading up the 11-Premier Team.
Coach Andrews had a stellar collegiate career where she played and started for four years at Division II Concordia University of Irvine. Hannah was coached by former Olympian, and National Team assistant coach Paula Weishoff.
A powerful outside and right-side hitter, Andrews was successful both on the court and in the classroom. Andrews was named to the Academic All-PacWest Team in 2015 and 2016, along with being an All-PacWest Honorable mention in 2015. As a team in 2016 Concordia of Irvine won their first PacWest Championship. Andrews also played on the Beach Volleyball team during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Academically Andrews graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2017. Andrews earned Dean’s List recognition, for outstanding performance in the 2016-2017 academic year.
Locally Andrews played for four years at Rincon Valley Christian School where she graduated in 2013. As a prep athlete Andrews was League MVP in 2012, and 2013, and was a First-Team member in 2011, and Honorable Mention in 2010.
Andrews was named the Player of the Year in 2013 for the All-Empire Small School Division, and was named the Female Athlete of the year for Rincon Valley Christian School.
At the club level Hannah played for Empire Volleyball club from 2009-2013 and on the 14's-18's teams.
Hannah has also been the lead assistant with Director Daryl Kapis for the Empire Juniors program which helps coach young aspiring volleyball players ages 7-13.