The 2018-2019 athletic year for Coastal Georgia was one to remember. From basketball in the winter to golf this spring, the Mariners were a force.
Throughout the fall, winter and spring sports, seven of the eight teams qualified for the Sun Conference tournaments. There were four conference tournament finals appearances, with one champion, two regular season conference crowns, and one national title. In the fall, winter, the volleyball team won the Sun Conference Tournament Championship over Webber International 3-1. However, the Mariners fell in the opening round of the NAIA Volleyball National Championships to Reinhardt University 3-0 to end their year.
The team finished with a 22-12 overall record and went 13-5 in conference play.
Coastal Georgia was also highly successful on the basketball court as well. Both the men’s and women’s teams made it to the Sun Conference finals, but neither was able to bring home the title.
The men’s team finished 17-14 overall and 10-8 in conference play. They fell to Ave Maria University, 83-67 to finish the season and claim second place in the Sun Conference. It was coach Jesse Watkins fifth year with the team.
The women’s team went 21-11, 12-6 last season and saw a trip to the Sun Conference finals. Coastal had an impressive tournament run upsetting second-seeded St. Thomas in the semifinals advancing to the finals. The Mariners, however, fell short and lost to Southeastern University 90-66. Southeastern went on to finish second nationally.
Coastal Georgia women’s coach Roger Hodge finished up his third season with the Mariners, and it was the schools’ first-ever conference final appearance.
Hodge said coaching for a school that has had the success like Coastal had this athletic year brings him much pride.
“It’s a great deal of pride just to be among so many coaches, so many good student-athletes and growing with a school that just keeps getting better and better,” Hodge said. “It’s an exciting time for our school and athletic program, and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
He said that getting kids to come to Coastal isn’t a hard sell because the program and conference is of such high quality.
“Our kids just did a tremendous job, and that ties back to the quality of the conference. Its the quality of the athletic program, it isn’t a difficult sell.” Hodge said. “These are smart kids that wouldn’t choose Coastal Georgia if it wasn’t such a quality institution.”
Coastal Georgia’s success continued into the spring. The Mariners men’s tennis team made it to the Sun Conference finals and finished second in the tournament. They did take home the regular season conference crown.
The Mariners’ softball team also claimed the regular season conference crown for the first time in the team’s history. Coastal softball finished 28-19 overall and 16-8 in Sun Conference play.
Coach Mike Minick finished up his sixth year with the team and received Sun Conference Coach of the Year. He was one of two coaches this athletic cycle to receive that award. The softball team also had the Sun Conference Player of the Year with junior Paige Alt taking the title home.
Coastal’s golf teams were also highly successful on the course this spring. The women’s golf team collected two team wins this season as coach Nicole Johns finished up her ninth overall and sixth year as head coach for the team.
Johns team finished fifth in the Sun Conference Tournament and made it to the second day of the NAIA Women’s Golf National Championship before getting cut.
Kylee Wheeler made a ton of noise this spring for the Mariners as the sophomore finished in the top-50 at the NAIA tournament.
The men’s golf team was the team that had the most buzz surrounding them this spring. Coastal recorded seven team wins, one shy of the school record.
Senior golfer, Mark David Johnson won the NAIA Individual National Championship. He also won two player of the year titles, the NAIA Men’s Golfer of the Year and was the NAIA’s Jack Nicklaus Golfer of the Year and finished as the most decorated golfer in school history.
Coach Mike Cook was the other Coastal Georgia coach to win the Sun Conference Coach of the year. However, he doesn’t want to take credit for winning this award. Instead, he wanted to thank his players.
“It’s an honor for them to recognize me, but honestly it’s the players that play well for me that allow me to get such an award,” Cook said. “I have to thank my players for what they did. They had such a strong season winning seven tournaments which is almost a record for us, not quite the record, one shy of eight on the year. It means a lot, but it’s the players that made it happen for me.”
Cook also said that coaching was something he has always wanted to do. He said that since his time at the University of Georgia, he wanted to be a coach.
“I’ve been a coach for nine years, and it’s something I enjoy doing and of course working for a fine institution like College of Coastal Georgia is a plus, its a great school,” Cook said. “We’ve had some success and the schools been very supportive in what we have tried to do.”
Out of all the coaches at Coastal, Cook has been here the longest. He has seen coaches come and go and says one of the reasons for the recent success is because the coaches at the college are sticking around. He also credits Coastal Georgia’s athletic director William Carlton for the job he continues to do.
“We only have eight sports, but we’re getting our bang for our buck, and we have great coaches,” Cook said. “Volleyball has been successful from the start. Carlton, I think he’s done a great job. He’s been here since we’ve expanded and we’ve been through it, and we don’t seem to have a lot of turn over.
“At first we had a few coaches come and go, and we’re not seeing a lot of turn over, and that’s been a helpful thing. When a coach leaves, the kids they recruit tend to leave too. I think the student and the athletes we’re getting are top notch. They’re great student-athletes, and they play their four years out. When they come here, they stay here. I think that’s one reason for our success right there.”
As success continues, one must think about whether Coastal Georgia will expand again or stay like it is. Cook said that expansion has been a topic of discussion since he got there and hopes it will eventually grow.