Story Courtesy of Allegheny Sports Information Department
Recently-retired Allegheny College volleyball coach Bridget Sheehan has passed away on October 30 following a battle with cancer.
A 2017 inductee into the Allegheny Hall of Fame, Sheehan coached the Gators from 1986-2016, retiring with a career record of 635-484. She is the lone volleyball coach in the history of the North Coast Athletic Conference to eclipse 600 victories, and one of just 25 to reach the milestone in NCAA Division III history.
Sheehan's teams finished over .500 in 19 different seasons, including 14 years with at least 20 wins, and four with over 30. Seventy-one of her players earned All-NCAC accolades and eight were named All-Region, while Molly Dietz remains the only player in team history to be a three-time NCAC Player of the Year (1989-91) and be recognized with CoSIDA Academic All-America honors.
Upon taking the reigns of the program for the 1986 season, the Gators enjoyed immediate success. In just her second year at the helm in 1987, she led the team to a 42-5 record, which included a 37-match winning streak, en-route to the team's first ever appearance in the NCAA postseason and her selection as both NCAC and NCAA East Region Coach of the Year. The following year was even better, as the Gators set a program record with 44 wins, and captured their first of four consecutive NCAC titles.
In 1990, Sheehan earned her second NCAC Coach of the Year honor after leading the Gators to a 30-14 record and their third trip to the NCAA playoffs, before posting 27 wins in 1991 to earn their fourth national playoff berth. The Gators continued their winning ways under Sheehan throughout the 1990's, including back-to-back 35-win seasons in 1994 and '95. Between 1996 and 2003, the Gators placed third or higher in the NCAC final standings five times, highlighted by setter Vicki Kajder's selection as NCAC Newcomer of the Year in 2000, and a 28-13 overall record in 2003.
Sheehan joined the prestigious 500-win club during the 2005 season with a 3-0 victory over Piedmont College on Sept. 16, while in 2008, she guided the Gators to a program-record 11 NCAC victories, and their 20th NCAC tournament appearance in 25 years.
In the opening match of the 2014 season, Sheehan guided the Gators to a 3-0 sweep of Waynesburg to become just the 23rd coach in NCAA Division III history, and the only active coach in the NCAC to surpass the 600-win plateau. The Gators also wrapped up the regular season in impressive fashion, earning a five-set win over regionally-ranked Carnegie Mellon in the team's home finale, and would end the season with an 18-15 record.
In what would be her final season on the Gator bench in 2015, Sheehan led her team to an 18-13 mark. Then-sophomore Terra Schall set a program single-season record with 762 digs, and the Gators again qualified for the NCAC tournament.
Prior to the 2016 campaign, Sheehan announced that she would take a leave of absence from her position as she battled cancer, and the Allegheny College and NCAC communities banded together to honor the legendary coach. Throughout the season, the Gator volleyball team collected donations to the Meadville Medical Center's Yolanda Barco Oncology Center on behalf of Sheehan, culminating with a capacity crowd on hand at the Wise Center for an October match against Denison on #Battle4Bridget Day. Two weeks later at the NCAC tournament, the conference coaches unanimously named Sheehan the conference's Coach of the Year to recognize her myriad contributions to the league during her illustrious career.
This past June during Allegheny Reunion Weekend, a reception was held to honor Sheehan for her remarkable 30-year career that was attended by over 100 of her friends, colleagues, and former players. During the celebration, a plaque was unveiled in her honor near the entrance to the David V. Wise Center performance arena, while a new bench was placed outside the Wise Center in her honor.
Over the course of the last decade, the immense impact and success of Sheehan's teams have continued to be recognized with the election of six of her former players into the Allegheny Hall of Fame, including Dietz (elected 2002), Carol Frederick (2006), Laurie Machuga (2006), Sue Plyler Scott (2009), Renea Surrena Gaus (2012), and Kajder (2014).
Prior to being hired at Allegheny, Sheehan began her coaching career as an assistant volleyball coach at nearby Maplewood High School from 1979-82, before she moved to Cochranton High School where she served as junior high basketball coach (1980-84) and head volleyball and basketball coach (1984-86).
A Cochranton, Pennsylvania native, Sheehan graduated from Slippery Rock University in 1977 with a degree in economics, and she was a four-year volleyball starter and served as team captain during her senior campaign. She also went on to earn a master's in sports administration from her alma mater in 1990, and was inducted into the Slippery Rock Hall of Fame in 2008.
Funeral services will take place on Saturday, November 4 at 10:30 a.m. at Ford Chapel on the Allegheny campus.