For the second time in as many years, the Stillwater volleyball team is looking for a new head coach after Jamie Suapaia stepped down earlier this week to accept an assistant coaching job at Hamline University.
Suapaia becomes the second Ponies coach in a year to leave Stillwater to become a college coaching, joining former girls’ soccer coach Amanda Maxwell who departed early last year to become the head coach at Bethel.
“I think he did a very good job and he’s wanted, which means that we hired the right guy, but we’re losing them to the MIAC,” Stillwater Activities Director Ricky Michel said. “He has an opportunity and we wish him the best. He wants to coach at a higher level and this is the natural step to take, we’re just sad that it came so soon.”
It wasn’t an easy decision for Suapaia, who was offered the position by former Eastview coach Becky Egan — a University of Minnesota player who recently accepted the Hamline job.
“It is an opportunity to get back into the college ranks,” Suapaia said. “Becky is a friend of mine and I respect her a lot. I really admire her coaching style a lot and I think we are very compatible coaches so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
But that doesn’t mean it was an easy or quick decision.
“I was assuming that I was going to be at Stillwater for quite a while,” Suapaia said. “I got a phone call from her and I told her I’d have to get back to her. It took me a week-and-a-half to decide because I really like the girls that are (at Stillwater) and the ninth-grade girls that are coming in. The girls made it a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. It definitely was a place that I was going to call home for quite a while and if it hadn’t been the perfect situation for me to leave I probably wouldn’t have.”
Jamie’s father and Stillwater JV coach Sandy Suapaia — who has been coaching volleyball for nearly half a century — has indicated he will return to the Ponies if his son’s eventual successor would like him back.
“If the new coach comes in and wants him to coach JV he’ll stay,” Jamie said. “They’re going to have a great season. They’ve got some good hard-working girls and the younger kids coming up are experienced. This senior class is a good bunch of leaders and I have a feeling they’re going to go far.”
In his first and only season at Stillwater, Suapaia led the Ponies to a 17-11 record, including 7-2 to tie Roseville and East Ridge for second place in the Suburban East Conference behind Cretin-Derham Hall. The Ponies lost to East Ridge 3-2 in the section quarterfinals.
The position has been posted on the school district’s website and Michel said it would remain open until filled. The Ponies are not the only program currently looking for a volleyball coach as Burnsville, Eastview and White Bear Lake, among others, are also seeking head coaches.