Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Retiring Bolles Coach Hard to Replace; Bush Has 696 Career Victories, but Savors Relationships Most of All

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Retiring Bolles Coach Hard to Replace; Bush Has 696 Career Victories, but Savors Relationships Most of All

Article excerpt

Byline: Justin Barney

Elise Bush played for the most successful high school volleyball coach in the area. By the time she retired from coaching this month at Bolles, she had that title all to herself.

Not quite what Bush imagined when she first began coaching volleyball in the mid-1980s. Basketball was more of her sport. Volleyball quickly replaced that.

During that process, Bush, whose 31-year career included a state championship and a staggering 20 state semifinal appearances, became as identifiable with local volleyball as any other coach to ever do it on the First Coast. Her 696-291 record is unmatched in the area.

"I actually grew to love it more than basketball," she said. "I loved the fact that it took so many different components, not only to make a play work, but to make a team run. And the intensity of it was appealing to me. You make an error in another sport, you don't necessarily give up a run or a point. But in volleyball, you do."

Without a string of serious health issues, Bush would likely be front and center for the Bulldogs for year No. 32 and knocking at the door of career victory 700.

Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in late 2015, Bush battled through treatments and returned to coach the 2016 season, leading the Bulldogs to the Region 1-5A finals.

Faced with further health issues this year related to her cancer, Bush stepped down for good from coaching this month. She plans to remain at the school in an assistant athletic director and ninth grade advisor role. Former Bolles player Madison Lee took over for Bush.

"I just don't have the energy, physically or emotionally, to really devote to the program. I'd be doing the girls and program an injustice if I did it half way," Bush said. "I want to get through this next phase, get my health back. That's my primary focus for me right now."

From a coaching standpoint, that's the loss of two iconic members of Bolles' staff over a five-month period. Football coach Corky Rogers, who ranks fifth nationally in coaching victories, retired last March due to health issues. And losing Bush, the most successful volleyball coach in the area, is a similar jolt in its own regard.

"Like anything else, how do you replace people like that," Bolles athletic director Matt Morris said of Bush and Rogers. "You probably don't ever replace people like that.

"Out of anybody and everybody I've worked with, there is not anyone either personally or professionally I've got more respect for [than Bush] ... Gregg Troy, Corky Rogers, Chipper Jones, Don Suriano. She's on the Mount Rushmore of Bolles."

From a volleyball coaching standpoint, no other coach on the First Coast has won more than Bush. She surpassed her mentor and former Fletcher coach Karen Caron (682-162) in career victories last year. …

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