(FREDERICTON, NB) Jilliane Portelli is stepping away, temporarily, from her job as head coach of the UNB Varsity Reds women’s volleyball team.
Portelli, and her husband Dan, are expecting their first child in early September.
While Portelli is on maternity leave, James Cress will assume the head coaching duties, on an interim basis.
News of Portelli’s pregnancy was given to her players at the end of the last school year.
“I’ll always remember what fun they made it to share the news,” says Portelli. “One thing you learn as an athlete is that you can’t always choose your circumstances, but you can choose your attitude. The group, in general, has no problem rolling with the change and being positive and excited about the coming season.”
Cress is no stranger to the Varsity Reds’ women’s volleyball team.
He is a Level 3 National Coaching Certification Program coach, and spent a dozen seasons as an assistant under former head coach John Richard, now the Varsity Reds Director of Athletics.
"I can't think of a better individual to step in for Coach Portelli,” says Richard. “James has dedicated years to this program and was instrumental to the success the team achieved when he was an assistant."
“I feel fortunate to be able to combine one of my personal passions with my working career,” says Cress. “UNB, the Varsity Reds and the women’s volleyball program have been a major influence on my life. It’s exciting to be able to share those positive experiences, while leading a fantastic group of student-athletes.”
Cress will take a leave of absence from his job as the Manager of Recreation Sport Programs, with UNB’s Recreation Services department.
“My challenge will be to continue to deliver the top-level leadership and competitiveness that the program has grown accustomed to over the years,” says Cress.
Portelli feels the team will be in good hands with Cress.
“I can’t believe how well it has worked out,” she says. “James’ background with the team, volleyball knowledge, and character, make him the ideal interim coach.”
While caring for her newborn will be her priority, Portelli says she’ll be involved with the team.
“I’ll be supporting our players and staff in the background. And I’ll be recruiting to ensure the team keeps getting better in the 2017-18 season.”
The women’s volleyball team begins their Atlantic University Sport season on October 28, against Moncton, in Halifax.