Ravenscroft Athletic Director Ned Gonet has announced a new partnership with NC Elite Volleyball Club, a Raleigh club founded in 2007 by Sandy Merkel-DeJames and Gary DeJames.
The arrangement brings considerable coaching, strength and conditioning, and skills development experience to the school’s volleyball program. Merkel-DeJames will serve as head varsity volleyball coach, and DeJames will serve as lead training coach and assistant varsity coach. The coaching staff will be rounded out by Jeremy Chaitin (head junior varsity coach), Melissa Ramel (head Middle School coach) and Brendan Smith (skills and strategy coach for all three teams).
In addition to the management of the school’s three volleyball teams, NC Elite will host its year-round slate of club volleyball programming at Ravenscroft’s athletic facilities.
Merkel-DeJames, who served most recently as head coach at St. Mary’s School in Raleigh, has more than 25 years of experience as a volleyball coach. She has been involved with club volleyball administration and coaching since 2000 and has successfully led her teams to qualify for the USAV Junior Olympic National Championships in every season she coached, winning several regional and divisional championships as well. In addition to her club volleyball coaching experience, she has coached at numerous collegiate camps across the country.
Merkel-DeJames was a three-sport NCAA Division I scholarship athlete at UNC-Charlotte: a four-year letter winner and three-time all-conference setter and MVP of the varsity volleyball team, a four-year letter winner and MVP of the varsity track team, and starting midfielder for the 1995 Conference USA Championship varsity soccer team. She completed her collegiate volleyball career holding career and single-season school records in assists, digs and service aces, as well as an NCAA Division I national ranking of 14th in all-time career assists. She holds a B.A. in psychology and a Ph.D. in biotechnology.
DeJames also has extensive coaching experience at the high school and Junior Olympic levels. For the past three seasons, he has served as the lead training coach and assistant varsity volleyball coach at Saint Mary’s School; he has also coached locally at Sanderson High School, Broughton High School and Cresset Christian Academy. His work has been recognized through various awards, including the Cap-6 Conference Coach of the Year in 2003 (at Sanderson) and the Carolina Christian Conference Coach of the Year in 1998 (at Cresset Christian). He was also selected as Western New York All-Star Coach in 1996.
DeJames holds a B.S. in Health and Wellness from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, where he played volleyball for the men’s club team, serving as the captain and club director of the program in his final two seasons. His post-collegiate accomplishments include winning numerous indoor and outdoor events, including securing a first-place finish at the 2005 USAV Men’s Indoor Adult National Championships, where he was honored as part of the All-Tournament Team as an outside hitter. In 2021, DeJames and his team were inducted into the N.C. Volleyball Hall of Fame Court of Honor. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist.
“We are incredibly pleased and honored to be leading the Ravenscroft volleyball program beginning in the 2023 season, as we believe in the potential and talent within this program and the school. Our primary goals are to foster a culture of teamwork, resilience and personal growth while striving for excellence both on and off the court,” Merkel-DeJames said on behalf of herself and DeJames. “Additionally, we are thrilled to announce the integration of NC Elite Volleyball Club operations into the Ravenscroft campus, providing enhanced opportunities and state-of-the-art facilities and resources for our athletes to reach their full potential.”
“We are looking forward to partnering with NC Elite Volleyball as they take over the operation of our volleyball program as well as run their organization in our facilities throughout the year,” Gonet said. “We are delighted to have Gary and Sandy and their staff on campus to coach our programs in the fall and install in all of our student-athletes strong fundamentals and a passion and desire to compete at a high level.”