BOONE — Former Appalachian State volleyball coach Toni Wyatt has passed away after a battle with ALS.
Wyatt served as head coach of the Mountaineers from 1976 to 1986, amassing a program-record 233 wins and finishing with a .649 winning percentage. She also served as a coach for the Mountaineer club softball team during her time at App State.
Wyatt laid the groundwork for the program, leading the Mountaineers to multiple Southern Conference titles. Wyatt was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year twice (1984, 1986) and coached eight student-athletes to First Team All-Southern Conference honors.
In April, the Mountaineer volleyball team took park in the Walk to Defeat ALS in support of Wyatt with the name of “Team Toni.” In all, the event in Boone raised nearly $47,000 to fight ALS, nearly doubling its goal.
“The entire App State volleyball family sends our condolences to the family and friends on Toni Wyatt,” Mountaineer head coach Matt Ginipro said in a statement. “Our program would not be where it is today without the foundation that she helped build during her time as head coach.”
During the 1981 season, Wyatt guided App State to a program-record 32 wins, including a program-best 17 wins at home. The Mountaineers closed out the season with 13 consecutive victories, including wins over Virginia Tech, Duke and Wake Forest.
Feeding off the momentum from the strong finish to the 1981 campaign, she led the Mountaineers to another strong season in 1982, going 28-5. For the second straight season, the Mountaineers posted a 13-match winning streak, with 11 victories during the run coming by a sweep.
Appalachian joined the Southern Conference in the 1983 season and posted a 7-4 mark in its first season of conference play. In the program’s first Southern Conference Tournament match, the Mountaineers posted a 3-0 sweep of Furman.
“Coach Wyatt’s coaching style tended to reach deep within her athletes and bring out their best physically, emotionally and socially,” Traci Blankenship-Smith, former App State student-athlete, head coach and member of the App State Hall of Fame said in a statement. “She demanded greatness and toughness and mentored us in every other aspect of our lives. Through her aggressive style, somehow we always knew she loved us and wanted the best for us. She truly cared and worked tirelessly for our success. Coach Wyatt spent time learning about her athletes and motivated each of us in a way that fit each individual.”
The 1984 season saw Wyatt guide the Mountaineers to its first conference title in program history. App State finished the season 23-7 overall and went 9-1 in conference play, capturing the Southern Conference regular-season championship. The Mountaineers went on to win the Southern Conference Tournament title, beating Chattanooga 3-0 and Western Carolina 3-2 in the finals.
The 1985 season featured another 30-win campaign for Wyatt and the Mountaineers, finishing 30-8 and posting a 14-match winning streak during the year. For the second consecutive season, App State appeared in the finals of the Southern Conference Tournament, falling 3-2 to Western Carolina.
In her final season at the helm of the Mountaineers in 1986, the Mountaineers posted a 22-9 mark and 9-1 record in Southern Conference play, sharing the regular-season title with Western Carolina. App State appeared in the finals of the Southern Conference Tournament for the third consecutive year, dropping a 3-1 decision to Western Carolina in the championship match.
“When there was a need or a dream, Coach Wyatt went out of her way to help her athletes fulfill it,” added Blankenship-Smith. “Coach Wyatt frequently told me that ‘Dreams Can and Do Come True’. I still believe this today.å Coach Wyatt most certainly had a profound effect on my volleyball career and my life. I consider myself blessed beyond words to have had a coach, mentor and friend in Toni Wyatt.”