Ponte Vedra volleyball coach led Sharks to 2017 Class 6A title. She has a 191-60 record in nine seasons at the helm.

A legend hides in plain sight in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Ponte Vedra High volleyball coach Robin Mignerey abhors losing. But instead of injecting fear into her players, she infuses fun to circumvent the sting. Her approach has led to sustained success that culminated in the Sharks winning the Class 6A state championship in November.

Ponte Vedra’s triumph over private school powerhouse Orlando Bishop Moore marked the second time a county team won a state volleyball title. Mignerey is The Record’s 2018 St. Johns County Coach of the Year.

“When you do something good in a game, she calls you out for it,” said Ponte Vedra outside hitter Ashley Schur. “It makes you feel so good.”

 

SUSTAINED SUCCESS

Mignerey said the ability to coach good girls from good families helps make a great volleyball team. She is unfailingly earnest with her players and uses volleyball as a vehicle to drive home life lessons.

“I really do like volleyball,” said Mignerey, who was introduced to the sport when she was in 10th grade. “I still play. These are times it gets exhausting for the family. I do have a lot to share. I hope to think I am a good example with my attitude and outlook on life. I hope to be a good example. A big thing is teaching life lessons: How to be responsible and respectful.”

Stating she has a lot to share may be as close as Mignerey comes to speaking about herself.

In the fall of 1990 the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel caught up with Robin Kibben ahead of her team's appearance in the Class 1A state tournament.

“Kibben would rather not talk about her own abilities,” Ben Sturtevant wrote. “She said she prefers to talk about the team (Lake Worth Christian) and its chances of paying Berkeley a vendetta. She said she would gladly turn in her Player of the Year trophy for a state title.”

Tampa Berkley Prep beat Lake Worth Christian 15-13, 15-9 to win the title.

 

A TIGER FOR LIFE

After that season, Kibben would be named the Sun-Sentinel’s Player of the Year for a second straight season. Her prowess led to offers from across the country including Penn State, Auburn, Syracuse and Florida.

The Gators have become a volleyball powerhouse in the last three decades under head coach Mary Wise. Thursday, Mignerey recalled that she was initially going to sign with Florida, but when Wise replaced Marilyn McReavy after the 1990 season, she reconsidered.

It wasn’t anything against Wise — the two serial winners have spoken about how one of Florida’s best varsity volleyball players wound up at an out-of-state program — but the fact, Mignerey didn’t know who would replace McReavy.

Instead, the former Robin Kibben chose Clemson. Two decades after her last match, Kibben’s name is liberally sprinkled through the Clemson record book for career starts (133, second); kills (1,804, second); aces (184, third); kills per set (3.96, fourth); hitting percentage (.327, fifth); and total blocks (505, seventh). She was a three-time All-ACC selection and led the Tigers to their first two appearances in the NCAA tournament.

It was through her Clemson connections that drew Mignerey into coaching.

Ann Marie Wessel was a senior setter for the Tigers in 1991. Wessel and Mignerey combined to help the Tigers finish 22-12. Six years later, Wessel — then the head coach at Jacksonville University — was in search of an assistant. She called Mignerey, who spent three years as an assistant at JU before accepting the head job prior to the 2000 season.

 

SHARKS FAMILY

Mignerey stepped down after the 2002 season to spend more time with her family.

“My girls were so young, I didn’t have to be in the gym all the time,” Mignerey said. “I have been fortunate that I’ve been able to do that.”

Her oldest daughter, Logan, will be a junior outside hitter for the Sharks. Middle child, Kendall, will be a freshman at Ponte Vedra this year. Her son, Tyler, who was born a few weeks after the 2014 season began, has attended matches since he was four weeks old.

As Logan and Kendall grew up, Mignerey coached club volleyball and played when she could.

When Ponte Vedra High School opened in 2008 the school tapped former Wake Forest head coach Valorie Baker to be the head coach. Baker needed an assistant, knew Mignerey, and gave her a call.

Baker moved on from varsity coaching after a year. Mignerey slid over and has developed a juggernaut in Northeast St. Johns County.

 

BELIEVE AND ACHIEVE

In her nine years at the helm, Ponte Vedra has made eight playoff appearances, captured seven consecutive district titles, won three regional championships and, of course, claimed the Class 6A crown in memorable fashion last season.

Mignerey is 191-60 in her varsity coaching career. She has led the Sharks to 54 straight district wins.

“(Coach) Robin makes practice more fun than any practice I go to,” senior defensive specialist Eve Beech said. “She is like a friend. We can joke around. She is also serious and pushes us to be better than we are.”

Ponte Vedra was an underdog heading into the state final. Bishop Moore had won four titles in the previous six years. Beech and Schur said Mignerey and the staff never spoke of losing, or the challenge ahead of them. All they discussed was playing to their potential, playing together, playing hard and not worrying about what anyone else had to say.

Ponte Vedra finished the 2017 season at 25-5, the seventh straight year Mignerey has led the Sharks to 20-plus wins.

She says her biggest challenge is walking the tightrope between being coach and mom. Assistants Sarah Della Porta, Daniel Burkert and Austin Lanteigne helped her in that respect. Mignerey frequently deferred to the three of them when it came to whether her oldest daughter would make the varsity and when she should be inserted into the lineup.

The validation for that approach came in the form of a five-set win (26-24, 13-25, 25-23, 14-25, 15-11) in the final. Logan started the match in part because of her defensive abilities.

“Our defense and relentless ball control was helpful. We’re never really good at that,” Mignerey said when asked what separated the 2017 team from its predecessors. “That’s how Bishop Kenny and Clay play. We had a little of that and the offensive power.”

When the final kill hit the floor, Burkert gave Mignerey a bear hug that lifted the coach more than a foot off the floor. Both Burkert and Mignerey had lost state finals — Mignerey lost one as a player and another as a coach. But, at that moment, they were finally state champions.

“She has made me go for more balls,” Schur, a three-year varsity player said of Mignerey. “I throw my body around. You want her approval. If you really push yourself and she said, ‘Good job,’ it means more when she says it.”