• 70°

Oxford tabs Hengler as new volleyball coach

The search is over. Oxford has its new volleyball coach. Kacie Hengler was hired to take over the program on Monday, replacing former head coach Tara Ross, who retired last fall after leading the Chargers to the MHSAA Class 5A championship.

Ross announced she was stepping away from coaching immediately after the season was over in October, but Oxford and athletics director Mike Martin waited to begin their search with the season freshly complete and more than half the school year remaining.

Once they opened the search three months ago, it became apparent Martin would have his work cut out in finding Ross’ successor.

“First we had difficulty getting the word out,” Martin said. “I started networking with folks just to get the word out. We started interviewing in earnest about six weeks ago.”

The six-week process saw 13 candidates be interviewed by Martin before landing on Hengler as their choice. Hengler, a California native, has spent the past two years in Oxford helping with and coaching the Oxford Premier Volleyball Club. Before coming to Oxford after her husband, Greg Hengler, took a job producing Our American Stories, Hengler began her coaching career at Grace Brethren High School in Simi Valley, California where she coached junior varsity and assisted with the varsity team.

After two years at Grace Brethren, Hengler was recruited to coach JV at Oaks Christian, a college prep school in Thousand Oaks, California. Oaks Christian alum include Nick Montana, Trevor Gretzky and Trey Smith, the children of Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky and actor Will Smith. Hengler spent two years at Oaks Christian before her husband got the job offer to relocate from California to Mississippi.

The experience of coaching volleyball in Southern California, considered the hotbed of volleyball in the country, Hengler brings a different style not commonly seen in Mississippi high school volleyball.

“Well, my name kind of got put in the hat (for the job),” Hengler said laughing. “I was impressed with Oxford. … Overall, I kind of stayed with the same kind of coaches. They all kind of had the same old-school philosophy, believing that defense won the game.”

Hengler is considered a para-professional, which means she will not be teaching at Oxford. She will still be able to fulfill her duties with OPVC, which she now owns after founder Austin Lanteigne, who was a volunteer assistant with Oxford High as well, moved to Florida after last season.

“Since (Oxford) moved up to (Class) 6A, it was even more enticing to stay with those girls that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into,” Hengler said. “It’s really exciting to stay with them and coach them at a more competitive level.”