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What growing pains?

Mar 4, 2011
by Lou Dubois, '06

Flagler coaches John Lynch and Taylor Mott have achieved big success since making the jump to the NCAA and Peach Belt Conference

For men’s soccer head coach John Lynch and women’s volleyball head coach Taylor Mott, it’s been a challenging experience since Flagler moved to NCAA Div. II and the Peach Belt Conference. Yet, both have achieved remarkable success since beginning conference play.

Mott’s teams have won more than 20 games in each season since 2001, and her level of expectations for her players didn’t change simply because of the move to the NCAA. After a 26–15 record in the final NAIA campaign in 2006, her teams went 20–15 and 20–16 in their first two seasons in the NCAA.

“For me, the biggest challenge really was recruiting during that transition,” Mott said. “We were uncertain if we would be accepted into the Peach Belt Conference and what our future really would hold, so we had to sell players as we always do on the program and the school as a whole, but get them in during what I can only describe as an interesting time.”

In 2009, Mott’s perseverance paid off. In the college’s first season in the Peach Belt Conference, her team went 36–9, won the Southeast Regional and advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four. In 2010, the team finished 29–9 and won the conference regular season and conference tournaments for the second straight year before falling in the regionals.

“It’s hard to describe, but I’ve never thought of our team as underdogs ever since the transition to the NCAA,” Mott said. “We’ve been able to achieve some great things, but I think that’s because our players always believed in themselves, no matter the affiliation.”

Lynch, on the other hand, had his worst year as a coach during the team’s first NCAA season, winning just two games while struggling to adjust to what he called “a different level of fitness.”

“No matter what you do for a living, people always say that when you’re challenged in a way you haven’t been before, you come out of it stronger,” he said. “Experiencing that transition was one of the toughest things I’ve ever gone through as a coach. But I learned a lot about coaching through adversity, and I think my players learned that sometimes you have to work even harder.”

The results were not immediate, but in 2010, the hard work paid off. Led by senior goalkeeper Matt Gilman, who transferred in before the 2009 season, and junior midfielder Johan Bergfeld, who earned All-America honors, the Saints finished the season 14–5–1 overall and 6–2 in the Peach Belt Conference, before losing in the first round of the Southeast Region Tournament.

Flagler went 14–6–2 in 2009, took the Peach Belt Conference title in their first year and notched their most wins since 2002. Lynch also was named Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year.

“The progress we’ve made each year since the move has been great,” Lynch said. “I think our team is so much more physically fit today, and the kids deserve a lot of the credit.”

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