New coaches intend to keep Charlotte Latin volleyball tradition going
Friday, Aug. 01, 2014

New coaches intend to keep Charlotte Latin volleyball tradition going

Assistant coach Amy Zinn, left, and head coach Ellen Kazura, center, will lead the Charlotte Latin volleyball program this year.

Ellen Kazura and Amy Zinn have played big roles in the Charlotte Latin volleyball program’s success, as assistant coaches under legendary coach Suzie Pignetti and then Zoe Bell.

Kazura has been a Hawks assistant coach and head junior-varsity coach the past five seasons, as well as serving as the school’s sports information director.

Zinn, a history teacher, has been a Charlotte Latin volleyball assistant the past 13 years.

Both assistants were part of one of the most successful runs in state history when Charlotte Latin won nine straight N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A titles from 2004-2012, going 265-11.

Until now, Kazura and Zinn have done the majority of their work behind the scenes.

Bell, who has won five public-school state titles, stepped down after one season in charge at Latin in April to return to Ardrey Kell.

The school madean exhaustive search but decided the best coaching option already was in house: Kazura was named head coach, with Zinn her top assistant.

“Most sane people would say that following Pignetti and Bell would be a pretty daunting task,” said Kazura, a former Rutgers University volleyball player who also coaches the Carolina Junior Volleyball 14U team that went to nationalsin June. “But having worked with them and learned so much from both coaches, I feel very qualified to take over the position.

“Seeing how they deal with everything from X’s and O’s to the parents to the players, we really learned a lot. For the past five years, they have set the blueprint for us for how to run the program.”

Zinn said she feels the same about her coaching mentors. “We know we have huge shoes to fill,” said Zinn, who played high school volleyball in Delaware and club volleyball at Villanova. “They’ve been the best coaches for us to learn from. We wouldn’t be the coaches we are today without them.

“We will keep the same team focus that we’ve always had and have the same goals.”

Charlotte Latin headmaster Arch McIntosh is confident in the two new coaches. “Both Ellen and Amy are incredibly dedicated to the school and program, and to the student athletes that play for them,” he said. “They put a lot of thought into what’s best for our girls and know how to put them in the best position to win.

“We believe they are not only great coaches, but there was also a huge upside to keeping (the job) within Charlotte Latin family. They understand what we are all about.”

Despite having a younger team this season, Kazura and Zinn said they believe they can contend for both CISAA conference and state titles this season.

The effort starts with junior outside-hitter Rachel Mackey, who had 261 kills, 279 digs, 34 aces and 28 blocks last season.

Senior setter Lily Beck is back to orchestrate the offense, and her classmates, libero Carrie Mittl (290 digs) and middle-blocker Francis Medearis, also will be big factors.

Junior Dalila Mendygaziyeva (59 blocks, 47 aces last year) also is being counted on to play big either in the middle or on the outside, said Kazura.

Charlotte Latin is motivated to make it back to the state final after going 17-15 and losing in the quarterfinals.

“We know it’s not going to be easy, and there are going to be some ups and down this season,” said Kazura, whose team opens the season Aug. 20 at West Stanly. “But this team is ready for the challenge. We are already in that mindset.”

Kazura and Zinn will stick to the same formula that has made Charlotte Latin volleyball what it is today: focusing on the process, not the end result.

“In (my) 12 years, not once did we ever take our success for granted,” Zinn said. “Just because we had won a state championship, we always go into the next season, or even next game, knowing anything could happen. We know we are going to have to earn everything we get.

“That’s exactly the same focus that we will have again this season.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at

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