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Elliott returns to SOU as beach volleyball coach

ASHLAND — Southern Oregon University is welcoming back an old hall-of-fame face to lead one of its newest programs.

Paul Elliott, who remains the winningest volleyball coach in SOU history after leading the team from 1991-2006, will return to become the Raiders’ head women’s beach volleyball coach, SOU athletic director Matt Sayre announced Friday.

The school revealed in December the addition of beach volleyball along with golf, cycling and competitive cheer and dance to the athletic department. Each program will launch in 2022-23, with beach volleyball making its competitive debut next spring.

“I couldn’t be happier to be able to come back to a place I worked for 16 years and build a brand new program from scratch with the athletic department being as strong as it is today,” Elliott said. “I think Southern Oregon is the perfect place for a beach program and I look forward to working with college athletes in a sport that’s near and dear to my heart.”

Elliott — an eight-time conference or regional coach of the year — compiled a 381-166 record in his first stop at SOU, a wins mark that at the time of his departure ranked first in Cascade Conference volleyball history and 16th on the NAIA’s all-time list. His teams won four conference championships, four regional championships, and from 2001-04 made the program’s first-ever NAIA national tournament appearances consecutively. In 2011, he was inducted into the SOU Sports Hall of Fame.

He departed to become the assistant athletic director and head volleyball coach at Notre Dame High School in Salinas, Calif. He’s been at Santa Catalina School in Monterey, Calif., since 2009 — serving as athletic director, head volleyball coach, department chair of physical education and athletics and a physical education teacher.

On the beach circuit, Elliott attained a AAA player rating as part of the Association of Volleyball Professionals from 1985-87. He served from 2013-17 as a director of beach volleyball camps for the Central Coast Volleyball Club, and in recent years has continued to coach on the sand in camp, clinic and private instructional settings, including a stint training student-athletes from Cal State Monterey Bay.

“Paul will bring a great depth of experience to our efforts to launch this program successfully,” Sayre said. “He’ll find the best student-athletes to be a part of it and grow it into a perennial national contender. His character, experience and dynamic coaching style are a perfect fit for us.”

The Chico State University alum received Santa Catalina School’s Sister Carlotta Distinguished Service Award in 2020. He’s now a 14-time overall coach of the year.

“I’m just so excited to be back in Ashland and I think we’re going to draw student-athletes, I think they’re going to want to come,” Elliott said. “With the facilities we’re building we’ll be able to put quality teams on the sand very soon.”