UPDATED: Bergman departs St. Thomas More volleyball for Mahomet-Seymour

UPDATED: Bergman departs St. Thomas More volleyball for Mahomet-Seymour

CHAMPAIGN — When Stan Bergman walked off the Redbird Arena hardwood on Nov. 10, 2018, following St. Thomas More volleyball’s three-set victory over Nashville in the Class 2A third-place match, he had no inkling it would mark his final match in charge of the Sabers.

“I didn’t even give it a thought,” Bergman said Tuesday, “until I heard that the position opened up in Mahomet.”

And that’s exactly where Bergman is headed.

The four-year STM coach resigned from his role with the Sabers to take the same job at Mahomet-Seymour, a move announced Tuesday by both schools.

Bergman cited “a family choice” in separating from the program with which he compiled a 129-30 record that included a 2A state championship in 2017 and a third-place plaque earlier this school year.

“It was heart-wrenching and spirit-wrenching,” Bergman said of leaving STM. “It was extremely difficult, just knowing how much work was put into building where we are. And, of course, the girls — such a talented team that I’m leaving behind is heartbreaking for me to walk away from.”

That feeling was shared by Sabers athletic directors Josh and Krista Hinkley.

“Obviously you hate to lose good coaches, but he wasn’t only just a good coach. He was a great guy,” Josh Hinkley said. “It’s hard not to be bummed when you lose somebody that took you to back-to-back state trips and brought you trophies.”

Bergman said he “went with (his) gut feeling” when determining whether or not to apply for the open Bulldogs slot, which was vacated by Stacey Buzicky after the 2018 campaign. Buzicky went 38-28 in her two seasons in charge of M-S.

A four-time News-Gazette All-Area Coach of the Year — twice with STM, twice with Centennial during a 15-season stint with the Chargers from 1999 to 2013 — Bergman lives in Mahomet with wife Amy and sons Aden and Alec.

That was the tilting point in Bergman’s decision process.

“I looked at family first with this,” Bergman said. “Amy and I have always talked about wanting to get a little more involved in the community stuff, and I think this is the perfect way to do it.”

M-S athletic director Matt Hensley said the job received about “a half-dozen” applicants, noting that Bergman’s “credibility and reputation for leading a successful program” won out in the end.

“One of the things I think was most impressive is he never talked about wins and losses,” Hensley said. “He never talked about the trophies, never talked about the conference championships. He talked about the kids. That relationship piece was really, really important.”

The Bulldogs graduate four athletes, including Kent State signee Savannah Matthews, from a Class 3A regional semifinalist last season. But Bergman feels strongly that he’s taking over a group that can deliver M-S volleyball its first regional crown since 2015.

“From top to bottom — actually, I’m not even going to say bottom, because there is no bottom,” Bergman said. “From seniors down to our incoming freshmen, I just see a lot of potential and a lot of hardworking kids and some kids that can buy into a system that can make them successful.”

The Hinkleys already have publicly posted their now-open volleyball position.

Whoever helms the Sabers next season will need to replace two senior starters, but also retains the services of reigning News-Gazette Player of the Year Allie Trame, an Alabama commit, and standout rising sophomores Caroline Kerr and Anna McClure.

It was these girls and the other STM returnees whom Bergman said he first considered as the gears began spinning in his shift to the Bulldogs.

“My first reaction was ... are they going to be mad? Are they going to be happy? Are they never going to talk to me again?” Bergman said. “I didn’t want anyone thinking I was going to bail on them for any other purposes than the reasons behind what I did.”