University City

49ers’ new volleyball coach hits the ground running

The ink on his tax forms in the human resources department barely had time to dry before Gokhan Yilmaz started tackling the responsibilities of his latest job.

As the Charlotte 49ers’ new volleyball coach, Yilmaz has been busy meeting with returning players, contacting recruits, hiring assistant coaches and developing next season’s schedule.

And that was all in his first week on the payroll.

Yilmaz, a former associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Florida State, was named Charlotte’s 11th head coach early January. He started moving into his office five days later, with a goal of building a program that could eventually reach the NCAA tournament.

That’s a pretty lofty goal, considering no Charlotte volleyball team has ever accomplished it.

“I told the girls and I told the administration, we’re not going to look back,” said Yilmaz, 34, a native of Turkey. “We’re going to see how we can move it forward. I’ll be telling the same thing to the assistant coaches. It’s the way we approach it, the way we recruit.

“We’re going to treat (Charlotte) like an ACC or an SEC school. We want to treat this as a good volleyball program and build that culture here with our approach as coaches, then with the expectations from the girls.”

Yilmaz has been a part of building successful programs before. Working under head coach Chris Poole, Yilmaz helped Florida State to five straight NCAA appearances (2009-13), including reaching the national semifinals in 2011.

Before Florida State, Yilmaz spent time as an assistant coach at University of Arkansas, with Poole, as well as several smaller schools. From 1995-2002, Yilmaz coached numerous youth teams in his native Turkey.

Yilmaz says he’s always wanted to be a head coach in the U.S. and had interviewed for several jobs over the past couple years.

“I was looking for a place where we can sell an experience instead of certain parts – like only the school, or only the city or only athletics,” said Yilmaz. “I think Charlotte is overall a better experience than other schools.”

Yilmaz says all of the returning players have been invited back to the team, and none of them have indicated they are interested in leaving. The new coach has also reached out to next year’s incoming freshman, adding that he has one scholarship left to offer which would probably go to a transfer, junior college player or an international player.

The first time Yilmaz will get to have his full team playing or practicing together will be a period 45 days out from the week before final exams. The 49ers will also play in four spring tournaments, two of which will be in Raleigh, one possibly at home.

For now, Yilmaz is still getting used to his surroundings. The walls in his office are still mostly bare, and he’s waiting to receive his first set of 49ers’ coaching apparel. He jokes that “green hasn’t been my color for some time,” which is something he knows he’ll have to get used to.

In the meantime, Yilmaz is reaching out to former players and the Charlotte community to support his team as they attempt to turn it into a winner.

Sigmon has career-high night

For Hillary Sigmon, nothing was finer than the women’s basketball 49ers beating the Miners on Jan. 19. The junior guard scored a career-high 32 points as Charlotte won at University of Texas at El Paso 92-86 to improve to 9-8 overall and 3-1 in Conference USA. She made 12 of 15 field goal attempts, including five of seven 3-pointers.

49ers’ women in tie for 2nd in C-USA

Entering a home game vs. Tulane on Jan. 22, the 49ers’ women’s basketball team was in a four-way tie for second place in C-USA. Middle Tennessee leads the league with a 4-0 mark. Charlotte plays at Middle Tennessee on Feb. 22.

Bynum sets record in 300 meters

Anthony Bynum set an indoor track and field school record in the 300 meters at the Virginia Tech Invitational on Jan. 17. His time of 33.06 seconds was also good enough to win his event.

Kevin Calhoun and Katrina Wright also set Charlotte records in the pole vault and 20-pound weight throw, respectively.