Virginia Head Field Hockey Coach Missi Sanders Resigns
February 16, 1999
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia Head Field Hockey Coach Missi Sanders has announced her resignation, effective immediately. Assistant Coach Jessica Wilk has been named as her replacement by Craig Littlepage, Senior Associate Director of Athletics, also effective immediately.
Sanders said in a statement, “Six years ago I came to Charlottesville excited to embrace the life of a head coach. I looked forward to facing the challenges ahead of me to help continue to build the Virginia program. Now I am ready to face the same challenges ahead of me in motherhood. I wish all of the players and Jessica best of luck in the upcoming seasons.”
Sanders is married to George Gelnovatch, Virginia’s head men’s soccer coach. The couple has two children, Jake Sanders Gelnovatch, born March 15, 1997, and Sanders Gelnovatch, born February 13, 1998.
Littlepage comments, “Anyone can look at our field hockey results and see the postive impact Missi Sanders has had as our head coach. Our program and department will miss her energy and enthusiasm. I am comforted by knowing Missi will pass the torch to Jess Wilk, who will not miss a beat.”
Sanders, who was named the NFHCA (National Field Hockey Coaches Association) and ACC Coach of the Year in 1997, compiled a record of 88-41 in her six years at the helm of the Cavalier program. Along the way, the Cavaliers advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four years, the longest such streak in Virginia history. In both 1997 and 1998, Virginia advanced to the NCAA Semifinals, again new territory for the Cavalier program. In each of the last three seasons (1996-98), the Cavaliers reached the number-one ranking in the nation. The top ranking in 1996 marked the first time that Virginia sat atop the national polls. In 1997, the Cavaliers led the nation in scoring defense, allowing less than a goal per game while recording a national-best 11 shutouts.
Sanders’ influence can also be seen in the honors afforded her players. In 1996, Meridith Thorpe was named the ACC Rookie of the Year, the Cavaliers’ first such honor. In 1997, Meredith Elwell added another Rookie of the Year award. In 1998, Lori Mastropietro was named the ACC Player of the Year, the Cavaliers’ first such honor. Thorpe, Mastropietro, and Michelle Vizzuso were all named to the United States Senior National Team which competed in the FIH World Cup in the Netherlands in May of 1998. In 1998, Thorpe also set new Virginia and ACC records for goals and points, finishing her career as the ACC’s all-time leading scorer and ranking seventh in NCAA Division I history.
Under Sanders, the Cavaliers set school records for goals, assists, and points in a season and tied records for games in a season and wins in a season. The Cavaliers also tied records for goals in a game, margin of victory, and set a new standard for average margin of victory. In 1996 the Cavaliers set an NCAA Tournament record as well by not allowing a penalty corner in the 4-1 victory over Duke.
Jessica Wilk has been Virginia’s assistant coach since 1993. Long recognized as an integral factor to the rise of the Virginia field hockey program, Wilk has been a member of the United States National Reserve Senior Team as well as the Under-21 team. She was a three-time All-American in field hockey at the University of Maryland, where she received her degree in government in 1990. In 1987, the Terrapins won the NCAA Tournament and in 1986, Wilk was named the MVP of the ACC Field Hockey Tournament.