THEN AND NOW: A look back at two ETSU alums
Monday, June 23, 2008

When it comes to connecting the ETSU and Virginia Tech softball programs there is more in common than a couple hour drive to Blacksburg, Va.


Both Hokie head coach Scot Thomas and pitching coach Tiffani McVay received their degree from ETSU. Thomas graduated with a degree in Physical Education in 1991 and McVay was a four-year letter-winner from 2001-04.


McVay, who was apart of ETSU's inaugural softball team, was a versatile Lady Buccaneer player. During her four-year career, the Tennessee native posted 47 wins in the circle and her six home runs in 2002 are tied for fourth-best in a single season. McVay also holds single season records in ERA (2.11), saves (5), walks (25), shutouts (5), and complete games (25), and ranks in the top-five amongst single season wins (14), lowest opponent batting average (.247), innings pitched (202.1), strikeouts (106), appearances (35), and on-base percentage (.381). She also holds the single game record with seven RBIs, which was set in 2002.


Being apart of the first Lady Buccaneer softball team back in 2001 is what helped make McVay the type of person she is today.


"My time at ETSU literally made me who I am today," commented McVay. "I grew up as a person, an athlete, and a teammate. Being apart of any team has its ups and downs, but I felt by my fourth year we laid the best foundation for the ETSU softball program."


During her Lady Buccaneer career McVay compiled some fun and favorite memories. Whether it was knocking out top-seeded College of Charleston in the 2003 SoCon Tournament to advance into the championship game or turning a tarp into a slip-and-slide at Georgia Southern during a rain delay; those memories will always stick with McVay forever.  


"All the memories I have while playing at ETSU helped me grow as a person by knowing hard work will lead to success."


The dedication and commitment to softball positioned McVay into being named an assistant at one of the most premier softball programs in the country in 2007. Over the past two seasons, McVay had the privilege in coaching the 2008 USA National Player of the Year Angela Tincher. Tincher was the catalyst of Virginia Tech's staff as she posted back-to-back 38-win campaigns in 2007 and 2008, and the Hokies mounted the nation's third-lowest ERA (1.28) during McVay's first-year with the club.


"Coaching Angela has been a great gift," said McVay. "I believe she is the best pitcher in the country and I told her at the end of the year that it has been an honor to coach her over the years."


Ironically, coaching was something the ETSU alum really never thought hard about until she was asked to help teach pitching lessons. From that point forward everything fell right into McVay's lap.


"I really never knew when I considered going into coaching. I was approached by Mr. Lane from Erwin, asking me if I could help out with pitching lessons after college and I accepted the offer. Thanks to David Lane it has changed my life for the better. As for the Virginia Tech coaching job that pretty much fell into my lap. I had just moved to Blacksburg and at that time they were looking for a pitching coach and I accepted the job."


After arriving in Blacksburg and joining the Virginia Tech softball staff little did McVay know that she was going to be connected with yet another ETSU alum.


Despite being a Blacksburg native Scot Thomas has blue and gold in his blood as he graduated from ETSU in 1991. During his time in Johnson City, Thomas used all the resources that were available to him to his advantage - which in return helped mold him into the person he is today.


Along the way, Thomas got to know ETSU's most recognizable alumnus, Kenny Chesney, and learned some very valuable coaching tips from former ETSU women's basketball coach and current Senior Associate Athletics Director at Campbell Debbie Richardson.


Thomas and Chesney were fraternity brothers in Lambda Chi Alpha, and the Hokies head softball coach got to know Richardson after taking a class with the sixth head coach in Lady Buccaneer history. Taking Richardson's class paid huge dividends for Thomas as she offered him an undergraduate assistant position after expressing interest in coaching.


"Kenny and I were fraternity brothers in Lambda Chi Alpha, but were never roommates," added Thomas. "The only thing I can remember vividly about Kenny was he was a super nice guy and always came to functions late. Come to find out the reason he was late was because he was watching The Nashville Network learning songs that he could perform at open mike nights."


After completing his third year at ETSU, Thomas landed a coaching stint with the women's basketball team.


"My junior year I had taken a coaching basketball skills class with Coach Richardson, and when I asked her if she needed help the next year she gave me a position as an undergraduate assistant. This experience solidified my interest in college athletics and coach Richardson is still to this day one of my greatest friends and mentors."


Prior to Thomas' stint with the Lady Buccaneer basketball team he also spent the fall of his freshman and sophomore years with the ETSU baseball team. Even though Thomas never officially made the roster he still has a lot memories of watching the baseball, women's basketball and men's basketball teams in action.


When asked what Thomas' favorite athletic moment at ETSU was he had this to say:


"I wish could tell you about some great home run that I hit for ETSU, but that didn't happen because I only spent time with the baseball team the fall of my freshman and sophomore year. I guess I never made the roster officially; however, the year I spent with the women's basketball team we went to the Southern Conference Championship game and it was a great experience seeing a team come together at the right time to attempt to accomplish a goal. We didn't win, but it was a great experience nonetheless. Nicole Hopson was like watching a 5'6" female Larry Bird!  Following the men's basketball team was especially fun during the Les Robinson years, I loved going to Knoxville to beat UT and of course the trips to Asheville to win SoCon titles."


Since a young boy Thomas knew coaching was in his blood and that was the profession he wanted to proceed in.


"When I was a child my friends wanted to be either a policeman or astronaut, but I knew I wanted to be a coach. I don't know why I got so turned on to the profession at such an early age, but my mother had always taken me to ball games either at Virginia Tech or watching the locals play baseball or softball. While at ETSU I coached 8th grade football in Erwin with two friends, along with summer little league baseball at home - which solidified my desire to coach."


Fortunately for Thomas his hard work paid off as he became the Virginia Tech's first softball coach in 1995 and since then he knew he had his dream job. During his 15-year tenure with the Hokies, the '91 ETSU alum has guided Virginia Tech to an overall record of 483-307. Thomas has also guided the Hokies to four consecutive trips to the NCAA Regional since 2005; including the program's first-ever appearance in the Women's College World Series this past season.


Special thanks to Coach Thomas and McVay for their contributions to this story.