2018 WCC HOH Inductee: Mandy Bible, Saint Mary's College
Crumpacker profiles a standout setter
By John Crumpacker, #WCChoops Columnist
Leading up to the 2018 West Coast Conference Hall of Honor induction ceremony Saturday, March 3 at the Orleans Casino Resort, WCC Columnist John Crumpacker is profiling each inductee. Today’s profile focuses former Saint Mary’s volleyball standout, Mandy Bible.
If the purpose of attending college is to prepare for the future, then Mandy Bible nailed it.
From her hometown of Santa Barbara, she matriculated to Saint Mary’s on a volleyball scholarship, earned All-West Coast Conference honors as a sophomore, junior and senior, completed her degree in kinesiology and spent the next six years playing professionally in Slovenia and Austria.
And, oh, by the way, she met her husband-to-be in Slovenia, fell in love with the country as well as the man, and is now an assistant volleyball coach at her alma mater and mother of a 10-month-old son.
In sporting terms, that’s game, set and match, Bible.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know where Saint Mary’s was before I began the recruiting process,’’ Bible said. “It was amazing, such a community. Being so small, you can make good connections. Classes were small. It creates more of a bond than when you’re in a huge lecture hall. You know everyone walking through the gym. There’s really a community here, and that hasn’t changed. That’s its strength.’’
Bible was a setter for the Gaels from 2003-06, graduating in ‘07. She left school as the program’s career leader in total assists, assists per game and service aces and, in the classroom, was an All-WCC academic choice as a senior in ’06.
“I felt we were underdogs out of high school,’’ she said of her teammates at Saint Mary’s. “We played the underdog card all four years. That was a motivation. It was always so much fun to upset the big dogs, especially in the Bay Area.’’
In Bible’s sophomore season in ’04, the Gaels defeated Stanford twice (“And they ended up winning the national championship’’) and knocked off Cal to advance to the NCAA’s Sweet 16.
Bible returned to Saint Mary’s in 2015 as an assistant coach on Rob Browning’s staff. She’s now in her third season in Moraga, coaching both the indoor and beach versions of women’s volleyball. Bible’s status as one of the greatest volleyball players in Saint Mary’s history led to her being selected to the WCC’s Hall of Honor for 2018.
At 32, she’s the second-youngest member of the Class of 2018 that will be feted in a ceremony March 3 at the Orleans in Las Vegas in conjunction with the WCC basketball tournament.
“Shock, of course,’’ was Bible’s first reaction when she heard that her alma mater nominated her for the Hall of Honor. “It wasn’t even on my radar. I worked in sports information (at Saint Mary’s as a student), so I knew what it was. I’m honored to be a member in such great company.’’
At her table for the Hall of Honor ceremonies, Bible will have her husband, former Slovenian water polo player Uros Smolnik, along with her sister, her father, her father’s wife and a former college teammate. Son Kai, not quite a year old, will remain at home in Oakland, near Lake Merritt, well cared for.
Given the price of real estate in the Bay Area, the Lamorinda area specifically (Lafayette-Moraga-Orinda), Bible was asked facetiously if an assistant volleyball coach at Saint Mary’s could afford a home in Moraga.
“Not even close. Not yet,’’ she said.
As a character reference, they don’t come any better than Browning, who said of Bible, “There are always a handful of people you have over the years who embody everything you want in a student-athlete. Mandy is one of them for me. Mandy is an outstanding role model for the young women in our volleyball program. She lives a balanced life, had a remarkable professional career, has overcome great adversity and excelled academically.’’
(The “great adversity’’ that Browning spoke of refers to the death of Bible’s mother during her senior season in college.)
After Saint Mary’s, Bible resumed her volleyball career in 2009 with the Slovenian club OK Luka Koper, then moved on to ASKO Linz Steg in Austria before returning to Slovenia in 2014 for what was her final season as a player. She was hired by Browning the next year.
Her four years in Slovenia were transformative for Bible. She thoroughly enjoyed the country nestled on the Adriatic Sea between Italy, Austria and Croatia. She spent her seasons on the coast and grew to love the variety of food in the region, which she described as “a mix of all those countries near it. There’s a lot of Italian influence and because I was on the coast, there’s a lot of seafood. In the winter, it can be more like Austrian-Hungarian goulash, but delicious.’’
By happenstance, Bible was invited to dinner at the home of one of her Slovenian teammates and met one of her cousins, Smolnik. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, as they did not start dating until two years later. The couple married at a courthouse in Slovenia in 2014 in a civil ceremony.
“Really simple,’’ Bible said.
As a travel destination, Bible said, “I highly recommend it. It’s small. There’s only two million people who live in Slovenia. The location is perfect. It’s between Italy, Austria and Croatia. That’s what’s great. I lived on the coast on the Adriatic Sea. You can drive 40 minutes and be in the mountains.’’
After getting married, Bible and her husband moved back to the U.S. and settled in Oakland. Her husband works as a computer engineer for a small start-up.
For Bible, the current arc of her life really began at Saint Mary’s, when she was recruited to a school located in a town she had never heard of and did not know where it was located. Such is life.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards. Crumpacker has been covering #WCChoops since the 2014-15 season.