For the last 20 seasons, Mary Whitehead has built Evangel volleyball into a regional and national power.
Currently, the all-time leader in wins in Evangel history, Whitehead enters 2020 with a 459-270 (.629) all-time record and a 135-88 record within the Heart of America Athletic Conference.
Heading into the 2019 season, Whitehead returned the Crusaders to the 20-win mark in her 20th season at the helm. Evangel finished 23-10 overall and libero Eryn Russell became the 13th All-American after being named the Heart Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
In 2015, Whitehead capped her best season at the helm of the Crusaders going 39-7 and advancing to the NAIA National Tournament. Evangel again finished in the Top 25 of the final NAIA Rankings after going 2-2 at the national tournament.
During her tenure, the Crusaders have seen 13 NAIA all-Americans including Morgan Smith who also won Heart Libero of the Year honors in 2014 and 2015. Off the court, student-athletes have had incredible success as well as more than 50 NAIA National Scholar-Athlete award winners and earning NAIA Scholar Team honors as the top GPA in 2014 and second-best GPA in 2015.
Whitehead claimed her second Heart of America Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2014 as the Crusaders finished 27-13 and won the regular season and tournament titles. Evangel advanced to the national tournament and made its deepest run in program history while finishing the season ranked 20th in the NAIA rankings.
She won her first Heart Coach of the Year award in 2009 as Evangel won their first conference tournament championship in program history and advanced to their first NAIA National Tournament that season. The Crusaders followed that year with a perfect 10-0 league record in 2010 and went 27-6 overall.
In 2009, Whitehead passed Sandra Sorbo in all-time coaching wins with Evangel volleyball as she picked up her 219th career victory in her 10th season as head coach. Her .655 winning percentage is also the best all-time in the program’s 48-year history. She also ranks 18th among all active NAIA coaches in career wins and is in the top 25 nationally in win percentage.
Prior to Whitehead’s arrival at Evangel, the most consecutive winning seasons for the team was three (1980-82).
Whitehead shared the head coaching duties with Dawn Neal in 2000 before taking over the program in 2001. She has served Evangel University as the Director of the Mabee Student Fitness Center and has taught in the Evangel Kinesiology department. She was also the assistant softball coach for two years (1999-2000) at Evangel.
A 1997 graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University, Whitehead was a two-sport athlete earning three letters in softball and volleyball. She was an all-Heart selection twice in softball, an NCCAA All-American in softball in 1997 and was named the team MVP three times during her career. In addition, she was an NAIA Scholar-Athlete in 1996 and 1997 for softball and volleyball.
As a prep athlete, Whitehead won three volleyball and three softball letters at Burlington High School in Iowa. She lettered two years in basketball and was a four-year track letter winner. Whitehead earned all-district and all-conference honors as a volleyball and softball player at Burlington and was an all-conference basketball performer. She graduated from Burlington in 1992.
Formerly, Mary Penrod, Whitehead married to husband Jake in the summer of 2008. They reside in Fair Grove with their three sons.