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Four athletic programs at Eastern Mennonite University will have new faces running the show as Steve Benson, Kevin Griffin (C 93), and Mark Mace (C 90) begin their first year with the Royals.
Benson, formerly of Leesburg, Fla., has gotten a head start on his new cohorts as head coach of the women’s volleyball program in the fall. He will also guide the men’s volleyball program in the spring. Running both programs will offer varying challenges for Benson. Not only will he be coaching both females and males for the first time in his career, but the Lady Royals compete in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) and are coming off a 2-23 season. The men’s squad, meanwhile, has finished ranked either ninth or 11th nationally in each of the last three years and competes in the more expansive North East Collegiate Volleyball Association.
Benson comes to EMU from Lake-Sumter Community College where he was head coach of the women’s program. In addition, he has six years of experience coaching various levels of girl’s club volleyball in Florida. While coaching men will be new for Benson, he’s no stranger to the men’s game having played four years at North Park University in Chicago.
“I really wanted to be at EMU. It is my dream job to be able to coach at my alma mater and be in a Christian atmosphere.”
-Mark Mace (C 90)
While Benson has been coaching females for most of his career, Griffin will take the post of women’s basketball coach at EMU after coaching boys at the high school level. However, Griffin has worked numerous co-ed basketball camps in his coaching career and has forged a close relationship with James Madison University women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks, who has successfully transitioned from coaching males to females.
Griffin played one year of basketball for the Royals. He has had numerous stops in his coaching career since leaving EMU, most recently serving as boys’ basketball head coach at Delsea High School in Franklinville, N.J.
It was a “prayer-filled decision that this is what God wants for my family” that brought Griffin back to Harrisonburg. He added, “EMU offers a chance to coach and motivate young people on a different level. I can also reconnect with old friends and gain valuable experience on the collegiate level.”
Griffin will take over a successful program in a Lady Royals hoops squad that has gone 60-21 in the last three seasons and won the ODAC championship in 2004. He commented, “Hopefully we can continue the success that has been started here. We want to improve on what has been accomplished and not settle for being good, but rather to strive for being great.”
Like Griffin, Mace is also returning to his alma mater. He will take over the Royals’ baseball squad while also coaching on the collegiate level for the first time. For the past seven seasons, he has guided Monticello High School in Charlottesville to a 99-54 overall record.
Mace played four years of baseball at EMU and served as captain in his senior season. He has been a special education teacher since graduating from EMU, but he will give that up to take over the reins of the baseball program.
Mace believes that EMU will be the perfect opportunity to test his coaching acumen on the collegiate level. “I believe that this is what God has called me to do,” he commented. “I really wanted to be at EMU and have prayed for His will to be done. It is my dream job to be able to coach at my alma mater and be in a Christian atmosphere on a daily basis.”
Mace takes over a squad that was 13-21 last year and finished in 9th place in the ODAC. However, the team is not far removed from successful seasons, having gone 29-13 in 2002 and 22-14-1 in 2001.
Recruiting quality student-athletes will be important for Mace to return the baseball program to the upper echelon of the ODAC. He said, “We will have to find the students who can understand and enjoy the benefits of the total experience at EMU. Recruiting is a challenge at any program at any level and it will take a serious commitment.”
While EMU will be a new home to all three new coaches, all are well-versed in coaching and eager to share their experience and knowledge. “I enjoy helping kids change and grow,” Benson stated. “Coaching is about helping a team play and work together as one unit.”
Griffin echoed many of Benson’s sentiments, saying, “I love the sport and it keeps me involved. Coaching basketball provides me a chance to compete. The sport is a vehicle for teaching life lessons while also having fun and competing.”