FLORENCE, S.C. – Francis Marion University interim athletic director Murray Hartzler has announced the hiring of Elijah “Sonny” Kirkpatrick of Jersey Shore, Pa., as the university’s new head coach for women’s volleyball.
Kirkpatrick, 32, replaces Roy Martin who resigned in June after one season at the helm of the Patriot program. Todd Gober of Freeburg, Ill., accepted the position earlier in the summer but resigned a week later, citing family considerations.
Kirkpatrick has been the head coach at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., for the past eight years. He has recorded a 144-103 record, including a pair of trips to the NCAA Division III national tournament in 1997 and 1998. Over the past three years, his teams have posted win totals of 30, 27, and 25.
Since 1995, Lycoming has posted a 27-1 mark in Freedom League competition, within the Middle Atlantic States Collegiate Athletic Conference (MAC), the oldest and largest NCAA Division III conference. Kirkpatrick has twice been named the Freedom League “Coach of the Year,” while his teams won consecutive league titles from 1995 to 1998.
“After a long and unusual search process, we feel Sonny is the person meant to lead our volleyball program,” Hartzler said. “He has developed into a very successful Division III coach, and possesses the attributes needed to push the Patriot program to new levels of achievement, both at the conference and national levels.”
Kirkpatrick earned the B.A. degree in biology from Lycoming in 1991. Before taking over the Warrior volleyball program, he served as assistant men’s soccer coach in 1991.
He has also been a quality control analyst at Lonza, Inc., in Williamsport since 1991.
At FMU, the York, Pa., native inherits six returning letterwinners from last season’s 24-11 squad that tied for second place during the Peach Belt Conference regular season and tied for third place at the Peach Belt Tournament.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for me, and I look at it as a new beginning and a challenge,” Kirkpatrick commented. “My plan is to first maintain, and then improve, the level of volleyball played at Francis Marion. Eventually, I want to place Patriot volleyball at the highest level possible.”
He added, “I also appreciate the school’s good academic reputation, and everyone I met during my interview process was extremely kind and nice. I am looking forward to starting on Aug. 8.”
Kirkpatrick becomes the 12th head coach in the 27-year history of the Francis Marion program. The program boasts a .583 winning percentage (545-390 record) in those 27 seasons. Over the past four years, FMU has posted a 111-23 record and won two Peach Belt regular season and tournament championships. The 1998 Patriot team earned an invitation to the NCAA Division II national tournament.
He becomes the summer’s fourth new head coach among the eight Peach Belt Conference members that sponsor volleyball.