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SOU tabs Rohlfing as coach

ASHLAND — After a search that attracted 50 candidates from all across the United States, Southern Oregon University athletic director Dennis Francois decided that the best fit for the volleyball program was just down the road.

Former Ashland High coach Josh Rohlfing on Wednesday was named SOU's next head volleyball coach, succeeding longtime head man Paul Elliott and wrapping up a search that began about two months ago.

Francois made the announcement at the SOU library a little after 1 p.m. before an audience of about 40 faculty members, coaches, Raider volleyball players and media members. Also in the in attendance was Elliott, who came to wish his longtime friend good luck before moving to the Bay Area.

"It's a bittersweet situation for me," Rohlfing said, choking back tears behind a podium after being introduced. "I love the university, I love Southern Oregon, but I have to say goodbye to a really dear friend of mine. Paul Elliott's been a mentor and somebody special to me for a very long time in my life, and so I hope to be able to carry on the tradition of Southern Oregon University volleyball as well as he has and then, actually, I would like to take it up a step, if that's OK with him."

Elliott, who coached 16 seasons at SOU before deciding to resign last fall, was set to complete his move to Northern California immediately after the press conference. The winningest coach in SOU history will now be the head volleyball coach at Notre Dame, an all-girls private school in San Jose, Calif.

"I couldn't feel better about it," Elliott said. "Not only do I get to see my dear friend become successful, I think the program I'm leaving behind is in the best hands it could possibly in. I'm elated."

Rohlfing, 33, a four-time conference coach of the year and two-time state coach of the year, led Ashland to the postseason in each of his 10 years with the program and won three league titles and a state championship over the last five seasons. He compiled a 236-70 record overall and 122-24 mark in league matches, capped off with an undefeated campaign last year in the newly formed Southern Sky Conference.

Elliott will be a tough act to follow. He led the Raiders to a 381-166 overall record, including a 175-47 mark in Cascade Conference matches, three league titles and four consecutive Region I championships between 2001 and '05.

Francois expects Rohlfing to bring SOU the same kind of stability that Elliott did since he joined the Raiders in '91.

"We're looking for a smooth transition but we're also looking for longevity in this program and I think that's something that Josh brings to the table more so than anybody," he said. "It's not something that's going to be two, three years and out. "¦ That's not the feeling we got from Josh.

"I don't think it was a difficult decision in the end. I just think he brings so much to the table that other candidates can't. "¦ He'll tweak it, he'll change things a little bit, but I think everything he'll do will be the best thing for the program."

Joe Zavala is sports editor for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456 x 224, or e-mail joe.zavala@dailytidings.com