Grove City College has selected Leo Sayles as its sixth all-time head women’s volleyball coach. Sayles will also work as the athletic department’s associate director of athletics for Sport Ministry.
Sayles has spent the last 15 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He recently completed his eighth season as head coach at NCAA Division I Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C.
“My family and I are thrilled to join the outstanding athletic department staff,” Sayles said. “I am deeply grateful to athletic director Todd Gibson ’02 and President Paul McNulty ’80 for the opportunity. Grove City College has a tradition of athletic excellence and I am humbled to join such a quality staff in working to impact and influence the lives of our student-athletes.”
“We are very excited to be able to hire a coach of Leo’s caliber,” Gibson said. “His teams have consistently enjoyed success on the court while demonstrating a strong Christian culture and academic achievement.”
Sayles’ extensive experience in sports ministry will be integral in his role as associate athletic director, according to Gibson.
“Coach Sayles’ experience in developing Christian athletic culture will serve our entire athletic community as our department strives to glorify God in all that we do,” Gibson said.
At Gardner-Webb, Sayles’ teams achieved numerous milestones both on the court and in the classroom. In 2017, Gardner-Webb earned its first win over a major Division I university when the Bulldogs earned a five-set win over East Carolina.
Sayles owns several Gardner-Webb coaching records in volleyball, including most Division I wins in a season, most Big South Conference victories and the program’s best conference finish.
Gardner-Webb earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award in each of the last seven seasons. In 2017, Gardner-Webb led the Big South with 14 volleyball honorees on the conference’s Presidential Honor Roll.
Gardner-Webb also earned the Big South’s Sportsmanship Award in four consecutive years.
Sayles began his collegiate coaching career at Bryan College, an NAIA institution located in Dayton, Tenn., from 2004 through the 2010 season. He led Bryan to a 70-14 record in Appalachian Athletic Conference play over his last five seasons, along with five consecutive 20-win seasons.
Eighteen players earned All-AAC honors during his time at Bryan. Sayles guided the Lions to the AAC regular season title and to the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) national semifinals in 2009. He earned AAC Coach of the Year honors in 2006.
Sayles also spent nine years as a high school head coach in Redlands, Calif., East Hartford, Conn., and Rockville, Conn.
Sayles served as a youth pastor and minister of music in urban, suburban and rural churches over a 15-year span. After transitioning from pastoral ministry into coaching, he served several years as a college Sunday School teacher.
He recently authored “Ordering Our Steps: Committing Life and Sport to Christ” – a 31-day sports devotional for the athlete, coach or sports fan.
Sayles owns a bachelor’s degree in music from University of LaVerne. He has completed graduate work at Central Connecticut State and University of California-Riverside.
He and his wife, Tanya, have five children.
A youthful Grove City team went 7-9 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference this fall under interim head coach Stephanie Benkowski. The Wolverines returned to the conference tournament after missing the postseason in 2017.
“We are extremely thankful to Coach Benkowski for her efforts as our interim volleyball coach,” Gibson said. “Her energy and enthusiasm for the sport allowed our team to have a successful season under unusual circumstances.
“She is a top-notch person and I wish her and her family the best in the future.”
Grove City projects to return six starters next season.
“I can’t wait to begin working with the current players,” Sayles said. “They appear ready to be challenged. I can see their desire to elevate the program. I thank God for His providence and timing in providing such a blessing to my family. We have work to do in developing a championship culture for the Wolverines, but I am ready to get started.”
Sayles will officially begin his duties Jan. 7.