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Jenkins takes over ETSU volleyball program

Jeff Birchfield • Jan 15, 2019 at 6:26 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Sporting a championship pedigree as a player and more success on the sideline, Benavia Jenkins was introduced as East Tennessee State’s volleyball coach on Tuesday.

Jenkins, a two-time All-America middle blocker at Florida, was part of the 2003 Gators team that reached the national championship. She spent the past three seasons as an assistant at South Florida.

Her record as an assistant coach, including stints at Coastal Carolina and Santa Fe College, is 111-55. She was sold on ETSU after people around campus talk about  President Dr. Brian Noland and athletic director Scott Carter.

“I felt like this was the perfect opportunity for me to be a head coach. I did other interviews, but ETSU felt like the right fit,” Jenkins said. “There is a lot of passion about the university and you hear the people on campus talk highly of the president and the athletic director. It was like, ‘These are people I want to work for.’ That put me over the top and I look forward to continuing to grow this program.”

As a player, Jenkins was part of Mary Wise’s Gators teams that went 127-12 over her four years with a 72-0 record in Southeastern Conference play. They reached consecutive Final Fours in 2002-03 and finished as runner-up to Southern California in the 2003 national title match.

After graduation, Jenkins played professionally for nine years with stints in Spain, Austria, Turkey and Switzerland. She was inducted into Florida’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.

In 2012, she began a coaching career at Lincoln Park Academy in Florida and was the founder of the A-Vaneb Volleyball Academy. As an assistant coach at USF in 2018, the school made its first postseason appearance in 16 years.

“Coach Jenkins brings a wealth of competitive experience to our program as both a coach and player,” Carter said. “The accolades she has accumulated in her career are incredible — from her collegiate and professional success to the wins she has compiled as an assistant coach. Most impressive is the principled focus and passion she has for the sport of volleyball.”

Jenkins takes over an ETSU program that made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 2017-18 under coach Lindsey Devine, who left ETSU to become head coach at Alabama. The Bucs are coming off a 28-win season, their highest total since 2003. 

“We lost five seniors, but we’re bringing in seven freshmen,” Jenkins said of her new team. “It’s a different year, but I’m excited to take on this challenge. I’m not coming here to rebuild a program. We want to continue growing the legacy these young ladies have already built.”