Patrick Nicholas begins his third season at the helm of the UNCG volleyball program in 2011. It is his 11th career season as a Division I head coach.
“I’m very excited and honored to lead the UNCG women’s volleyball program,” Nicholas said after being named head coach in 2009. “I am very impressed with the commitment that the university, athletic department and especially Chancellor Linda Brady have made toward fostering a winning atmosphere. I am looking forward to getting started and ready to start training with the student-athletes.”
Nicholas improved on the success of his first season at UNCG by leading the team to a 22-12 record during his second season, including a 9-7 mark in Southern Conference matches.
The 2011 squad started the year 7-0 and also put together a six-match winning streak midway through the season en route to advancing to the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament.
Freshman Kellie Orewiler was named to the SoCon All-Freshman Team as a libero and senior Kayren Finney earned SoCon All-Tournament Team honors.
During his first season in 2010, Nicholas led the Spartans to a 17-14 overall record and a 9-7 mark in Southern Conference action.
Under his direction, Catherine Hanners earned Southern Conference Libero of the Year honors, as well as being named to the All-SoCon second-team.
Nicholas is currently the sixth head coach in the program’s last 30 years. It is his third tenure as a women’s head coach having served as the women’s head coach at Lehigh and Troy. In nine seasons as a head coach of women’s intercollegiate volleyball, he has a career record 147-124.
Nicholas arrived at UNCG after serving two seasons as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Marshall University. While at Marshall, Nicholas helped lead the Thundering Herd to a 35-23 overall record in those two seasons, including a 22-8 mark in 2007. Marshall won the Conference USA regular-season championship with a 15-1 league record that season. He also helped mold three student-athletes into American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Americans.
Nicholas has had two previous stints as a women’s head coach on the collegiate level at Troy University and Lehigh University. He received his first women’s head coaching job at Lehigh, where he coached from 1997-2003. He led the Mountain Hawks to a 121-92 record in his seven seasons and was the first coach in school history to lead the program to seven consecutive winning seasons. While at Lehigh, he won the Patriot League tournament championship in 1997. He also had a total of 16 student-athletes named All-Patriot League.
After leaving Lehigh as the school’s all-time leader in wins, Nicholas went on to coach at Troy for the 2004 season. Nicholas left the program after that season to open his own volleyball training center. He owned and operated the High Performance Training Volleyball School in Austin, Texas.
He also served as the men’s head coach for Navy’s program from 1986-90 while serving as an officer and instructor at the Naval Academy. Nicholas was named the EIVA Coach of the Year on the men’s side in 1989. When he took over as head coach prior to the 1986 season, he led the squad to its first-ever top-20 finish, and his teams continued to finish in the top 20 throughout his tenure there.
As well as being a head coach, Nicholas has served as an assistant coach for many nationally recognized programs. He coached at Ohio State (1995-97), Purdue (1994-95), Navy (1992-94) and George Mason (1984-85). While at George Mason, Nicholas helped coach the team to back-to-back final four appearances where they won the third-place match both seasons. At Ohio State, he helped the Buckeyes to back-to-back Round of 16 appearances in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship.
In addition to intercollegiate coaching, Nicholas has a wealth of experience coaching several national and club programs around the nation. In 1990, he was the head coach for the U.S. Olympic Sports Festival Team that earned a bronze medal. He later went on to be an assistant coach for the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1993-94. After that, he coached the San Diego Spikers of the NVA women’s professional league and led them to the league championship.
While also coaching at Lehigh, Nicholas was the head coach of the United States 14 and under National Team from 1997-2000. He served as the on-site director, coordinator and evaluator at the national tryouts for the USA girl’s junior, youth and 14 and under teams from 1997-2004. He was also an assistant coach for the USA Women’s National A-2 Team in 1999 and 2001. He was the head coach of Club Annapolis that won a gold medal at the 1990 U.S. Open Championships and a silver medal in 1997.
Nicholas earned his bachelor’s degree in 1986 in parks, recreation and leisure studies from George Mason, where he was a member of the men’s volleyball team in 1983, where they reached a top-10 ranking for the first time in school history.
Nicholas helped George Mason’s men’s program earn its first-ever top-10 national ranking and first-ever trip to the finals of the conference tournament in school history. Upon his graduation, Nicholas played for the Washington Volleyball Club and won a bronze medal at the U.S. Open Championships in 1987.
He and his wife, Megan, reside in Greensboro.
Former Tusculum assistant coach and University of Alabama standout Abbi Blackburn enters her first season as UNCG’s assistant volleyball coach.
“I am happy to have someone of Abbi’s caliber join our program,” Nicholas said. “Throughout the interview process Abbi seemed to really stick out to me. The thing I like is that she brings another Division I mentality from a big-time school. She played at Alabama and her last two years there were probably their most successful in the history of their program. She knows success at the highest level and that’s something that she will not only bring into our gym, but also into recruiting. This is an exciting time and I can’t wait to work with her.”
Blackburn has spent the past three seasons as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Tusculum College where she helped guide the program to unprecedented success.
“I’m really excited to join the UNCG staff,” Blackburn said. “I am excited to get to work with a coach that has so much experience and with a team that has a lot of talent returning and a lot of talent coming in next season. I think it’s just a really good program to a part of and I expect a lot of success in the future.”
In her first season at Tusculum, she helped guide the Pioneers to a 22-11 record and their first-ever NCAA Division II regional ranking.
Her team accomplished even higher feats in her second season as the team went 18-15 and earned the first-ever bid to the NCAA Championships in school history. That team also record the school’s first win over a top-25 program.
Last season, Blackburn helped lead the Pioneers to an impressive 25-7 overall record as her team reached the NCAA Championships for the second-straight season. Tusculum also earned runner-up honors at the conference tournament.
She also helped the team rack up an impressive amount of individual awards. The Pioneers had one first-team All-American and three all-region selections, including the Freshman of the Year in the region. Her team also had four all-conference members, two all-freshman team selections in the conference, one of which being the conference Freshman of the Year.
Prior to joining the staff at Tusculum, Blackburn was a standout at the University of Alabama. As a junior, she helped the Crimson Tide reach their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid and also advanced to the SEC Championship Match for the first time in school history. Her team also advanced to the NCAA Tournament as a senior.
In addition to her efforts on the court, Blackburn was also a leader in the classroom as she was named to the SEC All-Academic Team on three separate occasions.
During her prep career, Blackburn played for one of the most prestigious club teams in the nation in ASICS Munciana Volleyball Club. Her 15-under and 17-under teams won the National Championship, while her 16-under squad earned third-place honors.
Blackburn graduated from Alabama in 2007 with a degree in communication.