Randi Viggiano didn't want to taint her last season coaching the Culver volleyball team.
That's why she held off on telling the team of her impending departure until after the Bulldogs wrapped up the 2017 season.
When Culver held an assembly for the team to celebrate its second-place finish at the 2A state tournament, Viggiano gathered the girls and broke the news.
"I just said, "I'm not coming back next year; this is my last season at Culver,'" Viggiano said. "I kept apologizing … 'I'm so sorry, I know you guys were counting on me to be here, but I can't be.' They were wonderful. Yes, there were tears shed, but what I wasn't expecting was the gratitude … I was afraid they were going to be angry or something else, but they were so appreciative."
Although she and Nick Viggiano, her assistant coach and husband, remained tight-lipped about their future with Culver throughout the season, they knew at the start of the season in August it would be the last.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, Viggiano started working at Ridgeview High School as a counselor, a position she held at Culver for the previous seven years. When she moved over to Ridgeview, it wasn't feasible for her to go back and forth between Culver and Redmond.
Viggiano's departure, while not exactly unexpected, leaves behind a substantial legacy within the Culver volleyball program.
In her eight seasons as head coach, Culver qualified for seven straight appearances in the 2A state tournament. The Bulldogs finished third or higher in five of those years, including a state title in 2012.
Her last season, Culver drew its share of doubters due to the fact that a host of first-year varsity players were stepping in to replace five graduated seniors. The Bulldogs proved them wrong in the end, reaching the state title match against Grant Union, before ultimately settling for a second-place trophy.
"Anytime we lose a coach that's been here for three or four years, it's obviously a loss because they've built the program and established their expectations," Culver Athletic Director Shea Little said. "It's a big loss for our volleyball program and high school … Always tough to replace somebody, but we're going to move forward, find somebody to step in and hopefully they continue the tradition that she and her husband started."
Although Culver knows for certain someone else will be coaching the volleyball team next season, a couple moving pieces have yet to be worked out.
Nick Viggiano still works in Culver, in the facilities and maintenance department of the school district.
At Culver's end-of-the-year banquet, several thank you cards given to Nick and Randi Viggiano from players suggested unanimously that they want Nick Viggiano to succeed Randi Viggiano at Culver.
He said he's still considering applying for the Culver job, though he remains uncertain if the time commitment would align with his current work schedule.
Little said he would be surprised if Nick Viggiano applies for the position, considering the Viggianos worked as a coaching tandem for much of their time in Culver, but would certainly welcome his application.
Randi Viggiano, meanwhile, is a primary candidate for Ridgeview's vacant head coaching job, after she interviewed for it on Tuesday. Heidi Wood coached Ridgeview to the end of last season on an interim basis, but the team is in search of a permanent coach.
She said her move to Ridgeview as a counselor wasn't tied to volleyball; in fact, she was offered a job in 2016 at her alma mater, McNary High, to be a counselor and volleyball coach, but couldn't bring herself to leave Culver then. Ridgeview, she said, was the only other place she was willing to leave for.
"When I got offered this job, it was a no-brainer yes," Viggiano said. "I will always love Culver; it will always have a special place in my heart, but I needed to grow and be pushed as a counselor, to have new challenges."
Whoever takes over the Culver program has a lot to work with. On paper, at least, Culver appears to be a state-title contender for next season as well. Although the Bulldogs will lose two centerpieces in Margie Beeler and Catylynn Duff, everyone else is set to return, highlighted by seven will-be seniors.
And, in part thanks to the foundation that the Viggianos built in the last eight years, interest to play volleyball is plenty high among Culver youths.