LAKE CHARLES, LA - Ashleigh Fitzgerald, who from 2006 to 2008 helped coach McNeese State volleyball to a Southland Conference East Division Championship and league postseason play each of those seasons, has been named the Cowgirls' new head coach, Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill announced on Wednesday.
Fitzgerald replaces Terry Gamble who left McNeese to take a similar job at Jacksonville State.
"It is both great and surprising to be coming back to McNeese after five years," said Fitzgerald, who has spent the last five years as head coach at Drury University. "A lot has changed from a facilities perspective across campus since I left, but a lot has stayed the same. McNeese is still all about a sense of family and community, and I know it is a place where I will be supported personally and professionally."
At Drury, an NCAA Division II school located in Springfield, Missouri, Fitzgerald compiled an 87-74 record in five seasons and led the Panthers to their only three winning seasons in the program's 20-year history.
"I want to thank my administrators at Drury, Pat Atwell and Barb Cowherd, who, on top of being great bosses, were also great mentors," she said. "I also want to thank McNeese Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill and Senior Woman's Administrator Bridget Martin for giving me the chance to return to McNeese."
Said Hemphill: "We could not be more thrilled to announce Ashleigh Fitzgerald as our new volleyball coach at McNeese. She is a great fit for our program, school and community. With her being an assistant at McNeese in previous years, she knows Lake Charles, Southwest Louisiana and the University.
"Her experience as a head coach in addition to her playing collegiately at a high level made the decision an easy one. She will bring a lot of energy to our program and has led her teams to success both in the classroom and on the court. We are confident that Ashleigh will continue that success here at McNeese. We are committed to our volleyball program and will give it every opportunity to be successful."
Fitzgerald guided the program to three Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournaments and led the team to its first conference tournament win in 2011. In 2010, she led the Panthers to a school-record 22 victories. She coached numerous all-conference selections, the school's first D-II Daktronics All-Region honoree, and an ESPN the Magazine Academic All-Region team member.
Her squads earned four AVCA team academic awards that recognizes teams that compile a minimum 3.30 team grade point average.
Prior to her coaching stint at Drury, Fitzgerald served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at McNeese from 2006-08.
During her previous stint at McNeese, Fitzgerald helped coach the Cowgirls to three conference tournament appearances while advancing to the semifinal match twice. The Cowgirls posted a 30-18 overall conference record in three seasons including a 12-4 mark and the Southland Conference Eastern Division title in 2006. The Cowgirls also finished second in the division in 2007.
Fitzgerald was responsible for recruiting Priscilla Massengale, the Houston Chronicle's 2008 Player of the Year and 2009 Louisiana Freshman of the Year. She also mentored an ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American and the Southland Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year in Tiffany Baker as well as coaching six all-conference selections.
The Chapin, South Carolina native was a member of the Ole Miss volleyball team for two years from 2004 to 2005 where she ranked fourth in the SEC in aces per game in 2004 and was fifth in the league in assists in 2005. Fitzgerald played her first two collegiate seasons at the United States Naval Academy and earned the Unsung Hero Award in 2001.
Fitzgerald was an academic standout at Ole Miss, earning the SEC's post-graduate scholarship for community service in 2006. She served as a volunteer coach for the Lady Rebels in the spring of 2006.