By Jason Arndt
Westosha Central High School looks to be headed in a new direction with a new head girls volleyball coach, following the dismissal of coach Charlie Berg, who served the school for 40 years.
Berg started his career as a freshman coach and eventually moved up to head coach in 1985. He is mainly responsible for turning the program into a perennial state powerhouse.
Berg, who confirmed the decision Monday, said the school opted to change leadership following a season marred by a WIAA Division 1 playoff ban when they played in one too many tournaments.
“Obviously, it was the scheduling error,” said Berg, who claimed there were “unsubstantiated circumstances.”
“I told them I was not going to resign, but based on what I heard, it something Central wanted to do.”
According to Westosha Central District Administrator Dr. Scott Pierce, who responded to an email Tuesday, the decision had been made by the School Board and administration.
“It was a personnel issue and the board and administration decided to make a change,” Pierce said.
A marred season
In October, following Westosha Central’s eighth tournament, school Athletic Director Jonathan Lindh received information from another school that Westosha exceeded the seven-tournament cap.
After Lindh self-reported the violation, the WIAA disqualified the team from postseason play, therefore, putting an abrupt end to their season.
Despite pleas from students and parents, the WIAA upheld its ban, citing a 30-year-old bylaw.
While the team came away from the WIAA Board of Control meeting empty handed, they told the panel to consider modifying the bylaw to help teams in similar circumstances in the future.
Although the Board of Control discussed it in its December meeting, it has not made a determination, according to the WIAA website.
The next step
As the school plans to search for a new coach, Berg is not done with the sport, or supporting some of his players as they seek higher education.
Berg, who works with his son, Evan, plans to continue coaching and assisting on the club volleyball circuit.
Evan Berg served as an assistant under his father at Westosha Central this year.
Furthermore, he wants to help the five seniors from this year’s squad seek an opportunity to play at the collegiate level.
Of the five, two have made commitments, Kaeley Mueller and Sarah Blair, who plan to attend Division 2 Quincy University in Illinois.
That leaves three, Abi Marcquenski, Nikki Stratton and Julianna Ellerbrock.
Aside from the five seniors, Berg expressed sympathy to the other seven varsity players, who will finish out their careers under a new leader.
“I really feel for the girls for next year,” he said.
One of the girls, junior Devin Gillespie, expressed gratitude for Berg’s dedication.
A lasting legacy
Gillespie, who could be the sole senior next year, said she felt blessed to be a part of a legendary program.
“He left behind a legacy and colossal shoes to fill,” she said. “I was blessed to have the opportunity to be coached by the infamous Charlie Berg and be a part of the legendary volleyball program Central High School has to offer.”
Gillespie noted his dedication to helping his players on the court and off of it, including classroom accomplishments.
“Central volleyball has developed many high-class and respectable athletes, who stay classy under any circumstances,” Gillespie said. “This was proven to everyone within these past couple of months.”
“The volleyball players at Central work hard not only in the gym, but in the classroom, taking AP and honors classes,” she added.
Despite entering her senior season without Berg, she said nothing can take away what he has accomplished as a coach.
“(He) ended his career with 19 state appearances and five state titles, I am deeply saddened I will not be given the opportunity to give him the six state titles he deserves.”
Like Gillespie, Berg is saddened by his dismissal, but noted the unconditional support from his family and community have strengthened him.
“The community, parents, and girls over the years have been supportive,” he said. “It is difficult to end a career like this.”