McGill looks to re-establish Webb volleyball champion tradition

KNOXVILLE — Ellen McGill has returned to East Tennessee.

The 2002 Alcoa High School graduate, looking to return home, has landed at Webb School of Knoxville as the Lady Spartans volleyball head coach.

“To be honest, I was looking to come home, and I reached out to (Webb athletic director David) Meske to see if they had anything available, and he said that he was looking for a head coach,” said McGill, who was a four-sport athlete for the Lady Tornadoes before moving on to Virginia Intermont College.

For the last six years, McGill has been head coach at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, enjoying a banner campaign for the Braves — winning the most conference matches in 27 years, which earned her Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year honors.

McGill said she knew the spring semester would be her last at UNC-Pembroke, where she began her head coaching tenure in 2016.

However, “I decided to stay for the spring semester at UNC-Pembroke, and our team did some special things, some things that we had never done before. We had a great season. Our season got moved to the spring because of COVID.”

She and her husband, Mitch McGill, a Gibbs High School graduate, decided to move back to the Knoxville area last winter with their 15-month-old son.

“Family is the most important thing and that’s why we’re back here,” coach McGill said. “We decided to come back at Christmas.

“My husband started looking for jobs and he got hired on by Knox County Schools,” she added.

Coach McGill was hired by Webb in May and recently began offseason workouts with the Lady Spartans, a program boasting one of most storied high school traditions in the state.

“At Webb they have a winning tradition; they have high academic expectations and high expectations for their sports programs,” McGill said. “The best and brightest decide to go to school at Webb, and it will be an easy transition coming from college.”

The Lady Spartans won six straight Division II-A state championships from 2013 through 2018 under the leadership of head coach Chris Hames.

“You have support from the administration and the parents and I’m thankful to get the opportunity to keep coaching,” McGill said

With a need to rebuild to a championship level, “We’ve faced a rebuild everywhere I’ve been,” she added.

“We’ll have our work cut out for us.”

“I hear Catholic is loaded.”

But the Lady Spartans will be in Division II-AA in 2021 and they’ll face the likes of Knoxville Catholic, Chattanooga Christian School and Chattanooga Girls Preparatory School.

The Lady Irish have been regulars at the state championships in Murfreesboro for the last decade.

This is the next step in McGill’s volleyball journey that has taken her across the country.

She began her career as an assistant at Western Carolina where she was on staff between 2007-09. She was also the head coach in the junior college ranks in Colorado. She coached at Trinidad State Junior College between 2009-15.

But now, she’s glad to be home.

“We’ve been in Colorado and we’ve been in North Carolina,” McGill said. “We’ve lived by the mountains and we’ve lived by the beach.

“But it was time to come home. This is a great place to raise a family and the schools in Knox County and the private schools are really good.”