Cardinal Newman names girls basketball, volleyball coaches

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman shook up the local coaching ranks Thursday, introducing Monica Mertle as its first girls’ basketball coach — the school will absorb Ursuline’s student body next fall — and Anna Waller as girls’ volleyball coach.

Monica Mertle, who starred at Ursuline and was the Windsor girls’ basketball coach this season, will coach the girls at Cardinal Newman. Photo by Crista Jeremaison / The Press Democrat

Amber Oden, who coached Ursuline volleyball last fall, will remain as an assistant as the program transitions to Newman. But Jeff Paul, who coached the Bears’ varsity basketball team for nine seasons and was there for 13 in all, is out.

“My coaching staff and I are definitely deeply disappointed that Newman didn’t give us an opportunity to coach the girls,” Paul said. “We work, we have jobs elsewhere, but the transition — we wanted be a part of that.”

For Mertle, who starred for the Ursuline basketball team from 2000 to 2003 and currently teaches at the school, the move completes her homecoming.

“I came from here,” she told the girls nestled in the bleachers at the Cardinal Newman High gym. “I was sitting where you’re sitting eight years ago. And I have such fond memories of Ursuline and Cardinal Newman.”

This was where Mertle’s Bears knocked off nationally ranked Piedmont, and where so many people came to see a game against Healdsburg that it took 30 minutes to get through the door.

“All our big games were played here,” Mertle said after meeting her new players. “Every time Ukiah was here, it was standing-room only. It’s exciting, because we have the potential to do that again.”

Cardinal Newman principal Graham Rutherford said he discussed the position with Paul, and praised the former Ursuline coach, who guided the Bears to eight North Coast Section appearances.

“We didn’t hire Jeff, so I don’t see this as firing Jeff,” Rutherford said.

He simply felt Mertle was the perfect choice, and not just because of her position as an Ursuline teacher.

“As an Ursuline grad and a strong female role model, these are all the things we saw as positives,” Rutherford said. “Plus, her college experience. We feel she’s done enough and shown enough that she’s ready for this opportunity.”

Mertle was a four-year starter at St. Mary’s after leading the Bears to the North Coast Section final four consecutive years.

Her defection to Cardinal Newman represented the second hit in a week to Windsor sports. On Feb. 25, football coach Dustin Davis informed the school he was leaving for a career in law enforcement. Now Windsor loses another popular first-year coach, Mertle, who led the Jaguars to a 12-13 mark.

She brings with her two former Windsor assistants — her sister Heidi (another Ursuline grad), and Andy Medeiros.

Waller was a volleyball standout at Rincon Valley Christian, where she played as Anna Yamamoto.

She also is a member of the SRJC Hall of Fame. Waller, who is married to former Empire career basketball points leader Rich Waller, coached for three years at RVC, and the past three at Santa Rosa Christian, which, like Ursuline, is shutting its doors after the school year.