Magazine's 2019 NOVA Nine Coach of the Year Finalists

June 16 - The 10 finalists for the NOVA Nine Team Coach of the Year have been selected from the magazine’s coverage area of 85 high schools in Northern Virginia.

The Coach of the Year finalists will be presented along with the 25 finalists for the NOVA Nine Team to our 41-member selection committee for a vote, with the team announced this coming week. The 25 players who are finalists will be announced later tonight.

Past winners of the NOVA Nine Coach of the Year are Madison’s Mark ‘Pudge’ Gjormand (2015), Chantilly’s Kevin Ford (2016), Briar Woods’ Jason Miller (2017) and Potomac’s Mike Covington (2018).

Here are this year’s Coach of the Year finalists, listed alphabetically:

Rob Hahne, Westfield - Led the Bulldogs (24-4) to their first Concorde District championship since 2010 and the program’s first region title and state tournament appearance since 2004. Westfield beat Centreville in the Region 6D final, then extended its winning streak to 14 games while beating defending champion West Springfield in the quarterfinals and Ocean Lakes in the semifinals. The Bulldogs fell a win short of their first state title, falling in the Class 6 final to Lake Braddock. Hahne is 78-56 in his six seasons.

Tommy Harrison, Stafford - Guided the Indians (24-3) on a magical ride to the Region 5D and Class 5 state championships, winning at Halifax County to claim the region title and then beating Hickory and Mills Godwin in walk-off fashion in the state semifinals and final, respectively. Stafford won 12 of its last 13 games en route to the first state title in program history. Harrison is 123-117 in 11 seasons at the school and 156-149 overall in 14 seasons as a head coach.

Micah Higgins, Highland School - Took the Hawks (20-5) to their first appearance in the VISAA Division II state final before falling to Miller School. The state tournament berth was the Warrenton school’s fifth straight, and the 20-win campaign was its third straight. Highland has won five Delaney Athletic Conference titles under Higgins, who is 114-48 in his eight seasons.

Brian Knight, Brentsville District - Now in his second stint at the helm of the Nokesville school, guided the Tigers (21-4) to a second straight Region 3B championship and a berth in the Class 3 state semifinals before falling to eventual champion Fluvanna County in walk-off fashion. Also led them to the Class 3 Northwestern District championship. Knight is 169-124 in his 12 seasons at the school.

Jason Olms, West Springfield - After getting hit hard by graduation after leading the program to its fourth state championship last year, led a gritty group to the Patriot District championship and appearance in the Region 6C final and Class 6 quarterfinals before falling to Lake Braddock and Westfield, respectively. The Spartans (14-12) handed the Bruins two of their three losses and took a one-run lead into the seventh against the Bulldogs before losing on a walk-off wild pitch. Olms is 134-68 in his eight seasons.

Sam Plank, Riverside - Oversaw a remarkable turnaround after injuries cost pitcher David Setien the entire season and 2018 NOVA Nine Team member Carson Swank half the season and led to a five-game losing streak to begin the season. The Rams (18-8) righted the ship, got Swank back from his broken hand and went on to win Dulles District and Region 4C championships. They won 15 straight games and advanced to their second state final in three years before falling in the Class 4 championship game to Lafayette, losing in walk-off fashion. Plank is 83-23 in his four years at the Leesburg school and 317-130 overall in 19 seasons.

Scott Rowland, Centreville - In his second season at the Clifton school, guided his third program to a state tournament appearance. The Wildcats (18-9) set a program record for wins, advancing to the Region 6D championship game before falling to Westfield and qualifying for the Class 6 state tournament before losing to eventual champion Lake Braddock in the quarterfinals. The state tournament appearance was Centreville’s first since 2003. Rowland is 32-17 in his two seasons with the Wildcats and 288-144 in his 18 seasons as a high school coach.

Mat Shannon, Stone Bridge - In his second and final season before moving over to new school Independence as an assistant director of student activities, led the Bulldogs (16-10) to their first region title and state tournament appearance since 2015. After a 10-1 loss to Briar Woods in the Potomac District semifinals, Stone Bridge rebounded by shutting out Falls Church and posting one-run wins over Briar Woods and Broad Run to win the Region 5C championship. The Bulldogs would fall to Halifax County in the Class 5 state quarterfinals. Shannon was 27-19 in his two seasons at the Ashburn school.

John Thomas, Lake Braddock - Led the Bruins (26-3) to the second state championship in program history in his first season at the helm after spending the previous four seasons as the pitching coach under former skipper Jody Rutherford. Lake Braddock won its first seven games, had a nine-game winning streak before falling to West Springfield in the Patriot District final, then rebounded to win its final seven games - avenging the loss to the Spartans in the Region 6C final, then dispatching of Centreville, James River and Westfield to win the Class 6 state title. Thomas is 134-56 in his eight seasons as a high school coach.

Ty Thorpe, Kettle Run - After a 7-6 loss to Fauquier dropped his club to 8-8, guided the Cougars (15-10) to wins in seven of their next eight games - including an upset of Sherando in the Northwestern District final - before falling to Liberty Christian Academy in the Class 4 state quarterfinals. Also led Kettle Run to the Region 4C final before dropping a one-run decision to Riverside. Thorpe is 152-70 in his 11 seasons at the Nokesville school.

Photos of coaches were submitted or taken by Fred Ingham