Randy Gardner won 37 of his first 40 matches as the New Castle varsity volleyball head coach.
There won’t be a 41st for him, though.
As first reported by The Star Press on Wednesday afternoon, New Castle has parted ways with Gardner just six matches into this season.
Gardner only coached four of those matches. The school suspended him for reasons it didn’t disclose before the Trojans played Cowan on Aug. 29.
New Castle athletic director Brandon Ecker declined to comment on why Gardner was suspended for those matches. Ecker also declined to specify if Gardner resigned or was terminated by the school. Gardner declined comment.
“That’s just part of the entire process, as we’re going forward here. Any personnel matters we try to handle internally for peoples’ protection,” Ecker said.
Assistant Mike Dodrill served as the interim head coach for the past two matches, and Ecker said Dodrill has agreed to remain in that position while the school conducts a coaching search.
“Mike Dodrill is going to take over as the interim head coach, while the position is listed,” Ecker said. “… We’ll list the position and go from there.”
Ecker intends to post the opening on the school and IHSAA websites as early as today. He said there is a possibility of hiring a head coach before the end of the season.
Dodrill previously assisted Steve Shondell at Burris and Mike Lingenfelter at Wapahani. He has assisted on eight state championship teams between those two stints.
Dodrill is coaching another team with state championship aspirations in the Class 4A No. 3 Trojans (6-0), but in less than ideal circumstances as he replaces his friend Gardner.
“They’re a very talented team,” Dodrill said of the Trojans. “If the right captain is at the helm, they’re very capable of winning state, and Randy was that captain.”
Dodrill and Gardner were part of the same staff in 2011 when Wapahani won the Class 2A state championship.
Gardner resigned after that season to return to New Castle, this time as its head coach. He assisted there in 2007 when the Trojans won the Class 4A state championship.
Gardner coached New Castle to a 33-3 record last season in his first year as a head coach. The Trojans lost to Indianapolis Cathedral in a regional and played that match without their second best hitter, Laryssa Welch, who was sidelined with an ankle injury.
With the core of its team back, led by 2012 Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year and USC recruit Lauryn Gill, New Castle opened this season ranked third in the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association poll. The Trojans remained in that spot behind Carmel and Avon when the new poll came out Tuesday.
“We had a state championship caliber team yesterday, and we’ll have one tomorrow,” Ecker said. “We still have a great team. We have a great group of members of staff, and I think these girls will persevere. They’ll play tough.”
New Castle returns to action tonight. The Trojans play host to Shenandoah. This weekend, New Castle plays Class 3A No. 9 Brebeuf and Silver Creek at the Brebeuf Showcase.
The following weekend the Trojans host a stacked invitational with potential mythical national title implications. PrepVolleyball.com ranked New Castle No. 9 in the nation in its preseason poll. No. 1 Louisville Assumption and two other nationally ranked teams in Avon and Floyd Central will be part of the invitational.
The resiliency of the Trojans will be tested as they try to regroup for the challenges that lie ahead.
“Any road to anywhere great is going to have its ups and downs,” Dodrill said. “You just have to keep it on the road and keep it as smooth as possible and keep your sights set forward.”