Georgia College athletics had two big head coaching vacancies to fill this summer, and did so just in the nick of time.
The Bobcats announced the hirings of new women’s basketball coach Ross Jolly and women’s soccer head Tinna Gallagher earlier this month. The two were introduced to Bobcat Nation together at a joint press conference held Thursday.
Jolly is taking on his first head coaching role after most recently serving as an assistant at Radford University in Virginia. He steps in for departed women’s basketball head coach Maurice Smith who now holds the same title at Peach Belt Conference (PBC) program Flagler College. Jolly is the seventh head coach in GC women’s basketball history.
Gallagher last headed up Oxford College of Emory’s program and was an assistant at GC before accepting the Oxford position, so her new post makes her a Bobcat once again. She takes over for former GC women’s soccer head Hope Clark who is now an associate athletic director at Young Harris College, another PBC school.
In introducing the two new coaches Thursday, Georgia College Athletic Director Wendell Staton spoke to a room packed with GC student-athletes and Bobcat supporters. His message touched on how well the new hires line up with the school’s values and emphasis on players being students first and athletes second.
The 31-year-old Jolly takes over a program that finished the 2018-19 slate 10-19 overall and 8-14 in conference play, which was just good enough to earn a slot in the PBC tournament. The Bobcats were knocked out in the first round of the conference tournament by top-seeded North Georgia. His other stops before Division I Radford included North Greenville University, UNC-Wilmington and Tusculum College. After addressing the room Jolly spoke with The Union-Recorder about what it means to him to get his first head coaching opportunity.
“There are just so many people that have helped me get to this point, and I'm just so appreciative of the opportunity that Wendell and the staff have given me,” he said. “I’m forever grateful for that. To lead the program here is pretty special and I'm so excited to be here.”
Since coming on board Jolly has been tackling all the duties that come with being a program head and learning about the players he has on campus. His Bobcats have hit the court a handful of times for practice in preparation for the 2019-20 season that begins in November.
Georgia College’s new head women’s soccer coach Gallagher is a native Icelander who spent her college years playing for Auburn University at Montgomery. She was a three-time All-Southern States Conference selection while earning first team honors her senior season. Also her senior year she received the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Champion of Character Award. During her last three seasons spent at Oxford College she helped lead the Eagles to 25 wins including a berth into the NJCAA District H Championship match last season. Gallagher is the wife of John Milledge Academy Dean of High School David Gallagher who also serves as the school’s head boys varsity basketball coach. The two currently have a young daughter named Hazel and the Gallaghers are currently expecting a second girl to join the family as Tinna is eight months pregnant.
“When I heard about the opening (at Georgia College) I wasn’t r looking,” she said. “Oxford College of Emory has been very, very good to me and supportive. But with encouragement from the Georgia College community, friends and family, I decided to go for it.”
The new GC soccer head came on board just a couple days before preseason practice was set to begin, so to say she’s hit the ground running would be an understatement.
“We went straight into it,” Gallagher said. “I’m so thankful to my girls for their commitment and for being so welcoming and supportive.”
Bobcat soccer finished last season 11-5-5 overall and 3-4-3 in conference play. GC entered the PBC tournament as the seventh seed but made a run all the way to the title match where the team lost to third-seeded Columbus State on penalty kicks.
Gallagher’s Bobcats begin their 2019 campaign on the road Friday at Eckerd College. Their first home match of the season is slated for Friday, Sept. 13 at 8 p.m. against 19th-ranked Lincoln Memorial University.