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Runnin' Bulldogs Volleyball Academy

Head Coach Leo Sayles

Leo Sayles enters his seventh season as the head coach of the Gardner-Webb volleyball team, officially taking over the reigns of the program in February 2011.

Sayles, who has over 25 years of experience as a volleyball coach at the high school, club and college level, came to Boiling Springs, N.C. after coaching seven seasons at Bryan College in Tennessee, where he guided the Lady Lions from a mid-level conference team to a league powerhouse.

In his first four seasons at Gardner-Webb, his teams have shown constant improvement, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ posted five conference wins in 2011, before setting the record for most conference wins in a single season in the program’s 13-year NCAA Division I history with six league victories in 2013.

GWU has also posted a number of firsts in the program’s history under Sayles, which includes the first-ever win over Liberty and the first-ever conference win over High Point - both coming in 2011.

Coach Sayles has already seen his Runnin’ Bulldog teams set new team single-season records, individual records and career marks in only his first two years at the helm of the program, as his 2011 squad set a new GWU Division I single-season record in total blocks with 236 and in block assists with 308 overall.

GWU’s total blocks per set average of 2.05 in 2011 was the second highest in a single season in the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ Division I history, while their 82 solo blocks and their 11.05 assists per set both rank third overall in GWU’s DI single-season record books.

Coach Sayles has already seen his Runnin’ Bulldog teams set new team single-season records, individual records and career marks in only his first two years at the helm of the program, as his 2011 squad set a new GWU Division I single-season record in total blocks with 236 and in block assists with 308 overall.

GWU’s total blocks per set average of 2.05 in 2011 was the second highest in a single season in the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ Division I history, while their 82 solo blocks and their 11.05 assists per set both rank third overall in GWU’s DI single-season record books.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs also received national recognition in 2011, as their 1.53 aces per set average placed 29th overall in the nation among the 322 NCAA Division I volleyball programs.

Gardner-Webb followed up its 2011 record-setting season at the net with 258 block assists in 2012, which ranks third in GWU’s DI record book for a single-season, and placed fourth in the single-season archives in total blocks (206), solo blocks (77) and total blocks per set (1.86) in 2012.

Coach Sayles and the Runnin’ Bulldogs rose to new heights in 2013, setting new program records with 15 overall wins and six victories in Big South play while posting the second-highest winning percentage in school history. The Runnin’ Bulldogs established a top-five single season mark in almost every statistical category, while setting a new single-match record for kills in a four-set match (25-point era) with 67 kills against Western Carolina, which is tied for 10th overall.

Anna Pashkova set single-season records in both total digs and digs per set, and Erin Anderson posted the program’s best kills per set average (2.91 kills/set) since the NCAA moved to 25-point sets in 2008.

Setter Heather Feldman established a new assists per set record in the 25-point era, and ranks third on the all-time single-season list with an average of 10.02 assists per set in 2013. Anderson finished her career ranked seventh on the program’s all-time list and third in the 25-point era, while Tyra Montour finished the season with the school’s second-highest single-season marks in block assists and total blocks.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs set several team and individual program records during the 2014 season, including new team marks in both block assists (372) and total blocks (253.0).

Feldman and Tyler Cockrell each continued their respective climbs through the program annals, as Feldman finished her career ranked second in the school’s Division I era in assists (4,545). The senior setter also became just the second player in program history to record 4,000 assists and 1,000 digs in her career, rising to sixth on the program’s Division I digs list (1,112). Cockrell capped her career with 1,080 kills, and finished as the program’s Division I leader in block solos, block assists and total blocks.

While at Gardner-Webb, Sayles has seen a number of individuals set new single-season marks on the court as well, as Laura Wilcox set a new GWU Division I single-season record in 2011 with a .348 hitting percentage with a minimum of 100 kills, which also ranked 46th nationally among all NCAA Division I institutions, while Cockrell set a new GWU Division I single-season record with 150 total blocks and 108 block assists in 2011. Cockrell’s 1.35 blocks per set average was also not only a new single-season record for Gardner-Webb, but it also placed her 21st overall in the nation.

Wilcox, Evan Moffitt and Cockrell have all set career marks under Coach Sayles, as Wilcox recorded her 1,000th career kill and her 200th career block in 2011, while Moffitt tallied her 1,000th career dig midway through the 2011 campaign. Wilcox also went on to set a new GWU Division I career record in 2011 with 229 total blocks overall, surpassing the previous record of 228 set by current assistant coach Bethany Martin.  However, Cockrell would go on to exceed Wilcox’s mark of 229 later in the season, as she recently finished her junior season in 2012 with a GWU’s Division I record of 345 career blocks.

Sayles has had a number of Runnin’ Bulldogs earn postseason recognition, as Wilcox earned a spot on the Big South All-Conference Second-Team for a third-time in four years in 2011, while Moffitt was tabbed the 2011 Big South Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and was also named to the Big South All-Academic Team for the third straight season in 2011. Feldman received Big South All-Freshman Team honors and was the lone freshman to be named to the North Carolina College Sports Information Association University All-State Volleyball Team in 2011, while also earning Big South All-Academic Team accolades in 2012.

The excitement surrounding the Gardner-Webb volleyball program has extended off the court and into the stands during Sayles’ time at GWU, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs have averaged close to 300 people at its home matches in Paul Porter Arena over the last four years, a huge increase in attendance over the previous seasons.

Prior to coming to Gardner-Webb, Sayles posted a record of 153-111 during his seven years at Bryan College, earning his 100th intercollegiate win on November 15, 2008.

Over his last five years at Bryan, Sayles led the Lady Lions to a 70-14 overall record, a 49-8 record at home and five straight 20-plus win seasons.

Sayles, who guided his 2009 team to its first-ever regular season conference championship, led his Bryan College teams to five consecutive AAC Final Four finishes and advanced to the NCCAA National Tournament in both 2009 and 2007, while also advancing to the NAIA Region XII Tournament Championship match and being named the NCCAA Mid-East Region Champions in 2007.

The 2006 Appalachian Athletic Conference Coach of the Year tutored two NCCAA All-Americans, two NAIA All-American Honorable Mentions, 12 AVCA NAIA All-Region, 13 NCCAA All-Region, 15 All-Conference selections, six AAC All-Freshman and 37 AAC Scholar-Athletes while at Bryan College, while his teams also won the AAC Champions of Character Award in both 2006 and 2004, and were recognized with AVCA Academic Team Awards in both 2009 and 2005.

Sayles’ 2009 squad also received a NAIA Scholar-Team Award.

At the high school level, prior to his time at Bryan College, Coach Sayles’ high school girls’ teams were ranked in the top-20 in the state of California and as high as No. 5 in the state of Connecticut. His boys’ teams advanced to the Final Four in Connecticut in each of his final two seasons there. Sayles has a number of high school conference championships and personal awards to his credit and has won numerous conference and regional championships in basketball, soccer and track & field as well.

As a teacher in the classroom for 10 years, Sayles received several awards including the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth-Teacher Recognition award, the East Hartford School-Business Partnership Staff-Volunteer Award and the first East Hartford National Honor Society “Light of Our Lives” Award.

Sayles is an active member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association and recently served as the Appalachian Athletic Conference Volleyball chair.  He has served terms on the AVCA-NAIA Head Coaches Executive Committee and as the NCCAA Mid-East Region Chair, as well as having served on Regional and State Executive Boards for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).  His devotions have been featured on FCA’s IMPACT daily email devotions, and he was featured in a 2007 article in FCA’s “Sharing the Victory Magazine”.

Sayles is a licensed minister and sought after speaker at Christian schools, youth ministries and camps.

Coach Sayles is supported by his wife of 20 years, Tanya, and their five children - Benjamin, Faith, Jonathan, Nathaniel, and Anna Rose.


"Gardner-Webb is in great hands with Leo leading their program.  Leo has the integrity, experience, vision, passion, and leadership to grow Gardner-Webb into a program that will be highly successful.  Not only will the team find success on the court; the players will grow mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually as well.  Families who want to see their daughters mentored as well as coached while competing at the NCAA Division 1 level should highly consider Leo and Gardner-Webb to provide that experience."

            -Deane Webb, Head Volleyball Coach at Ohio University

"I believe Leo Sayles is a fantastic addition to Gardner-Webb.  He will set high standards and raise the bar tremendously within the gym and in the classroom.  His presence and vision for wanting to do the right things, daily, will help bring a bright future to the volleyball program.  The players and staff of Gardner-Webb are very blessed to have Leo as a part of the university community."

            -Don Flora, Head Volleyball Coach at Texas Tech University

"Leo Sayles embodies what being a Christian Coach is all about.   He pursues excellence in his life and with his teams.   He will be great addition to the Gardner-Webb family."

            -Matt Bollant, Women's Basketball Head Coach at University of Illinois

"Quality, top to bottom! ... Leo took a rather mediocre team at best and turned it into a highly respected, competitive program, and he did it within the context of college philosophy and mission.... He is interested in producing men and women of character; young people who will become adults marked with integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness; who will be good husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, employees and employers; who will love God and love people, and will contribute something positive to their generation.... He is committed to Christ and to building into the lives of his players."

           -Sanford Zensen, Retired Director of Athletics at Bryan College

"(Leo) builds young ladies into champions on and off the court...(Leo) is a great networker among coaches and other programs...(Leo) leads a life of great character visible at all times.... Leo has kept himself and his team as testimonies of what character athletics should be.... Leo participates in many events on campus including speaking in chapel.... He has been a leader in FCA.... His involvement in the community at high schools and churches and camps is widely known.... Leo is what a Christian college coach should be.... His priorities are...God, family, and vocation.... You can hire expertise, but you cannot buy character. Leo has both."

           -Stephen D. Livesay, President at Bryan College

"He did a remarkable job with the program, completely turning it around to become a top-level program...Leo take(s) players with limited ability from being a practice player their freshman year to being an all-conference player their senior year.... Students know and have seen how much he cares about their well-beings.... It is his heart that sets him apart from other coaches.... A leader, a mentor, a person who loves his family first and desires to raise up a generation of strong, Christian women on and off the volleyball court."

            -John Miller, Coach Sayles' Former Assistant Volleyball Coach at Bryan College

"I can attest to his desire to honor the Lord in all things and his pastoral heart for the girls (he coaches)."

            -Christine Mooberry, Head Volleyball Coach at Charleston Southern