Sandra Merkel DeJames - Founder, President and Board Chair
Sandy is Co-Founder of NC Elite Volleyball Club, and serves as President, Master Coach and Board Chair. She has been involved with club volleyball since 2000, and in the Raleigh area since 2003. While coaching, Sandy successfully led her teams to qualify for the USAV Junior Olympic National Championships in every season she coached, and won several Regional and Divisional Championships. In addition to her club volleyball coaching experience, Sandy has coached numerous collegiate camps throughout Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, and coached junior high school volleyball in her hometown, Cincinnati OH. Sandy played high school volleyball for nationally recognized Cincinnati Seton as a setter and outside hitter, leading her team to several GGCL Conference, Regional and Ohio State Championships, while earning all-conference, all-region and all-state honors. Collegiately, Sandy was a 3 sport NCAA Division 1 scholarship athlete; a 4-year letter winner and three-time all-conference setter and MVP with the UNC Charlotte Women’s Varsity Volleyball Team, MVP of the Women’s Varsity Track Team (4 varsity letters), and starting midfielder for the 1995 Conference USA Championship UNC Charlotte Women’s Varsity Soccer Team (1 varsity letter). She completed her collegiate career holding career and single season school records in assists, digs and service aces, as well as a NCAA Division 1 national ranking of 14th in all-time career assists. Sandy holds a B.A. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Biology, and completed her Post-Doctoral training at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Sandy has held various executive and leadership positions in the applied biotechnology and life sciences industries primarily focused on strategy, innovation and technology development, has founded 3 companies, and is currently President and CEO of Harmonize Strategy Group, developing and driving corporate, innovation and investment strategy, and providing executive and leadership coaching and training (LinkedIn). Sandy has also served on various boards and advisory committees, currently serving as Board Member and Governance Committee Chair for the Institute For Emerging Issues at NC State University, a preeminent think tank that brings together individuals and groups to pursue solutions to North Carolina's challenges and strengthen the future competitiveness of the State.
Gary DeJames - Founder, Executive Director and Board Member
Gary is Co-Founder of NC Elite Volleyball Club, and serves as Executive Director, Master Coach and Board Member. Gary has been involved in coaching club volleyball in the Carolina Region since 2001, during which time he coached his teams to 10 Carolina Region Championships victories and competed in 11 USAV National Championships. He has also coached at numerous high schools in NC including Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, Sanderson High School in Raleigh, Broughton High School in Raleigh and Cresset Christian Academy in Durham, and was named Cap-6 Conference Coach of the Year in 2003 (Sanderson High School) and Carolina Christian Conference Coach of the Year in 1998 (Cresset Christian Academy) . Before moving to the Carolinas, Gary coached boys’ high school and JO volleyball in Buffalo, New York. Gary has been playing volleyball for over 25 years and has won numerous outdoor and indoor events, including a 1st place finish at the 2005 USAV Men's Adult National Championships, where he was awarded All-Tournament Team honors. Gary is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo where he earned a BS in Health and Wellness, minor in Coaching, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (NASM -National Academy of Sports Medicine), and currently works for Milliken & Company as the National Field Sales Director for the Healthcare Division (LinkedIn).
John Dillinger - Board Member and Master Coach
John has over 25 years of volleyball experience both as a player and as a coach. John is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he played varsity volleyball for legendary coach Bob Bertucci. After West Point, John continued playing adult USA Volleyball and became involved in coaching various junior camps, clinics and teams with former coach Bob Bertucci. John started coaching club volleyball with NC Challengers, and continued his coaching with NC Elite Volleyball Club, beginning in the 2008 inagural season. John currently serves as NC Elite Master Coach, leveraging his 20+ years of experience in coaching to mentor and develop NC Elite coaches. He also remains engaged in coaching NC Elite camps, clinics and programs, and specializes in setter training. Professionally, John is CEO/President and Owner of Keystone Transport.
Christine Bailey - Director of Finance and Business Operations
Christine has over 15 years of experience as an operations leader, with 10+ years experience managing and optimizing business processes, sysems and activities to ensure daily operations and information flow across the organization progresses smoothly. Christine is known as a resourceful team player with a responsive, cooperative and knowledgeable approach to work and dealing with diverse client and operational issues. She has multidisciplinary industry experience and demonstrated competence in diverse organizations, from a Fortune Global 2000 company to an independent counseling practice and a private health care consultancy. She has strong organizational acumen, analytical aptitude and problem solving capabilities, combined with expertise in operations management, customer relationship management, project management, business process / workflow mapping, continuous improvement and business systems integration. Christine is originally from Marblehead, MA and has lived in the Raleigh area for over 5 years. She has two grown children, Will and Jess who have both moved to the area, and 2 rescue dogs, Captain and Chance.
Joe McClean, Head of Informatics
Originally from California, and arriving by way of Seattle, Joe has lived in Apex, NC for the past 9 years. He has 3 children, 2 of which are active in the club, one a rising 14yr old, and the other (8) beginning his Volleyball life in NextGen. Professionally, Joe has over 15 years experience in Informatics and Technology, primarily in new product development and data solutions development and commercialization with Verizon Wireless, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, and Duke University School of Medicine.
Joe has been coaching youth athletics for 10 years, the last 5 of which have been focused on Volleyball. In his inaugural season at NC Elite, Joe had the privilege of serving as Assistant Coach for the 2018-19 NC Elite15 Black Team, who qualified for, and competed fiercely at, USAV Nationals in Indianapolis. Joe is passionate about player growth, both in sport and in life. He is a firm believer in former UCLA Coach John Wooden’s philosophy that love is the most powerful 4-letter word, and Joe aims to ensure that every player he interacts with knows unequivocally that they are valued, that their effort matters and is recognized, that hard work pays off, and that win or lose, there is opportunity for growth that will carry far beyond the court.
Haley Price, Assistant Director
Haley Price currently serves as head women's volleyball coach at Louisburg College also supporting roles of strength and conditioning, sports performance, academic advising, and Sports Information.
Price joins NC Elite's staff with this in mind, "I am excited to bring a heavy focus on technical skill and elevation of character philosophies to my new positions in North Carolina. I look forward to sharing a love for the game that has been so instrumental in preparing me for life beyond the court and building up strong young women throughout our program. It is truly an honor to serve as part of NC Elite's volleyball club."
Price comes to NC Elite by way of Kingsport, Tennessee and Dobyns-Bennett High School where she was the youngest head coach in the state of Tennessee. There she successfully established and managed a code of conduct for three teams on their way to compiling a 38-10 record, placing 3rd in TSSAA AAA State Championship, and winning Conference/Region Championships. In her first season Price won Big 6 District 1 AAA Coach of the Year honors, as she placed 100% of goal driven players in collegiate programs through recruiting strategy and college readiness character building.
From 2017-2019 Price was also Assistant Club Director and Head Volleyball Coach for TriCities Extreme Volleyball Club where she coordinated special event youth clinics and skilled lessons for high school, club, and college levels to improve and advance all skill levels. Under her leadership the club program grew from 10 teams to 19 teams.
Prior to her coaching experience Price was a NCAA Division I Athlete in the Atlantic Coast Conference for Virginia Tech Volleyball. She was a libero there from 2015-2018 and served as defensive captain and lettered as a true freshman. Price's playing career was cut short due to injury, but according to Price, "I love the perspective, the life lessons, the victories, and even the losses and injury as it challenges each person in every role of the team to level up, learn, and become a warrior in the face of adversity."
Price went on to graduate from Virginia Tech in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Neuroscience to better understand the physio-dynamics of the game, injury prevention, and sports psychology. She will also receive her Master of Special Education from Liberty University in the Fall of 2020.
"I love the bonds, friendships, and family that the sport has given me," said Price, "[Volleyball] has challenged me in ways I never expected, and it has taught me to be fully committed, passionate, to work harder, and be more determined, to control what I can control, and to embrace the chaos."