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AFTER ONLY THREE COACHING only three coaching changes in the previous six years, the Falcons hired three new head coaches during 2004–05: Chris Johnson in volleyball, Julie van Beek in women’s basketball, and Karl Lerum in track and field. And if their first seasons are any indication, Seattle Pacific University’s new cadre of coaches is doing just fine.
An assistant coach the previous season, Johnson was familiar with both the recruits and returnees. His squad got off to a strong start, defeating the No. 1 team in the nation in only the sixth match. Finishing 22-6, SPU went on to claim a share of its first conference championship in volleyball, and earn an NCAA tournament berth for the first time in four years.
The women’s basketball program presented a plum opportunity for Gordy Presnell’s successor. In nine years at Nashville’s Trevecca Nazarene, van Beek proved herself to be a winner, and a less-experienced coach might have been shaken by a 7-4 start. It took time for the players and new coaching staff to meld, but beginning in January, the Falcons reeled off 14 straight victories. A third-round loss to Chico State in the regional tournament ended yet another impressive playoff run.
Lerum took the reins of the track teams after classes and practices had already begun in the fall. A former assistant to Jack Hoyt, he benefited from cross country coach Doris Heritage’s knowledge and assistance. With more than two months remaining in the track season, the Falcons are flourishing. The women’s team won its third straight GNAC indoor crown, and three individual athletes will compete at national indoor championships.
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