CSS VARSITY COACHES
McQella Adams, Head Boys’ Volleyball and Assistant Girls’ Volleyball
Coach Adams is a Colorado native who grew up in the Springs where she began her volleyball career at Doherty High School and with the club team, Colorado Springs Altitude. She graduated from Colorado College in 2016 and played four years as a Tiger, earning a degree in Organismal Biology and Ecology. Coach Adams began her coaching career working volleyball camps at CC with both skills camps and prospective-student camps. She continued as an assistant coach for the CSS Boys’ Volleyball program in 2016 and the head coach of the boys’ team in 2017. Since 2016 Adams has assisted the CSS Varsity Girls’ Volleyball team. Her coaching strategies revolve around building players’ individual confidence both on and off the court, as well as developing an understanding of the importance of being an exceptional teammate.
David Benson, Assistant Cross Country
Coach Benson began coaching cross-country at CSS in 2014 where he also teaches political science at the high school. He also coaches the CSS 3-time state champion Knowledge Bowl team as well as the competitive Model United Nations team. Coach Benson has a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in History and French, and an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In high school and college, he was an avid epee fence, competing in three Junior Olympics. He began competing in cross-country races while living in Central Africa, running races in Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Madagascar. He loves the 5K and long distance running, which is where he offers his expertise with the CSS runners. Coach Benson is an outdoor enthusiast who leads wilderness canoe expeditions and loves to hike and camp with his wife, Jess, and four boys.
James “J” Cates, Head JV/Assistant Varsity Boys’ Basketball
Coach Cates arrives at CSS with an impressive resume for coaching basketball. Since 2009 he has coached boys and girls high school basketball in Colorado Springs at Sand Creek, Mesa Ridge, Falcon, Harrison, and most recently Palmer H.S. where he was the Head JV/Assistant Varsity boys’ coach. With a career in the Air Force, which is where Cates met CSS Head Coach Tony Little, he found time to work with several AAU basketball youth teams where he focused on player development and skills training. To keep up with the evolving game of basketball, Cates has worked camps around Colorado, attended numerous coaching clinics, and earned USA Basketball certification in 2015. He is extremely excited to work with the Kodiaks and coach alongside his friend and colleague, Tony Little.
Jolly Cunha, Head Cross Country
Coach Cunha began coaching cross country at CSS in the fall of 2014 where she also teaches elementary school. She graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in Psychology and Sociology, and from CU-Denver with a M.S. in Educational Psychology. While at Iowa, Cunha (Burke) was captain of the cross-country and track and field teams. As a member of the U.S. Junior National Cross-Country team, she took pride in representing the U.S. in international competition and qualifying for the World Championships. Coach Cunha enjoys coaching the varsity cross-country team and helping each athlete develop as both a person and runner. She is able to transfer her own experiences as a runner in helping the Kodiaks maximize their potential on the trails while finding a joy for movement. Jolly enjoys the outdoors and adventures with her husband, Billy, and their new puppies.
Delovell Earls, Head Boys’ Soccer
Coach Earls returns to CSS as one of the most celebrated athletes to wear a Kodiak uniform. After leading his team to CSS’s first state championship (2009), he was named “Mr. Basketball” (2A) in the state of Colorado. He continued his basketball career at the U.S. Air Force Academy where he was a four-year letterman and 2x captain before coaching at the USAFA Prep School, helping them to a 24-4 record. His next assignment took him to Los Angeles where he helped worked as a program manager while continuing to coach youth and high school sports. But, ask him his first love, and he will reply, “soccer.” As a Kodiak he played center midfielder and earned All-Conference and All-State honors before hanging up his cleats for high tops. Both he and his dad, Christopher Earls, former coach of the CSS boys’ basketball team, will tell you that soccer played an imperative role in his success on the basketball court, helping with his footwork, vision, and endurance. Recently Earls retired from the service and now his journey has come nearly full circle as he gets back to coaching his favorite sport at a place where his athletic abilities blossomed. Off the pitch, you will find De focusing his time towards getting his business off the ground with two other CSS alumni, Andrew Smith and Charles Lewis, all while working on getting his MBA in Design Strategy from California College of the Arts.
Coach Ferguson joined the coaching staff this year (2017) and is excited to share his passion for cycling with the team. He enjoys both mountain biking and road biking, and living in Cheyenne Canyon provides quick access to excellent single track mountain biking trails, as well as steep roads to climb with his road bike. Recently, he and his wife Sarah embarked on a long-distance bike trip that started in Salida, CO, and concluded in Taos, NM. This past summer, they participated in the Subaru Elephant Rock Cycle Series and completed the 40-mile loop around the area of Castle Rock. As a 5th-grade classroom teacher, Mr. Ferguson established after-school bike clubs that motivated students to ride their bikes around the streets of their neighborhood. He graduated from UCCS and Colorado College MAT.
Coach Knutila joined the Kodiak coaching staff for boys’ tennis in 2015. He has been the Director of Tennis for the City of Colorado Springs for 3 years, which includes running all the junior and adult programs, directing USTA tournaments and running USTA Adult Leagues. He is also a USPTA Certified Tennis Teaching Professional. Coach Knutila was a Cum Laude graduate from UCCS, where he was a letterman on the men’s tennis team. While competing collegiately, he earned All-RMAC honors in singles, doubles, as well as academically. He was also a coach at the world famous IMG’s Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. From Albuquerque, New Mexico, Marc is the youngest of three children. Coach Knutila is currently rated a 5.5 player, making him one of the highest rated players in the city. Before becoming a full-time tennis pro, he spent time as an associate at the financial firm T. Rowe Price and was also a newspaper reporter in Minnesota. His calm demeanor on the tennis court, along with his investment in the development of young people, make him a good fit for the Kodiaks.
Kyong Lee, Head Girls’ Volleyball
Coach Lee has been playing volleyball for more than 25 years and coaching on and off for twelve years. Since moving to Colorado Springs in 2001, she coached Club Stellar teams to qualify for three straight National Championship tournaments (2006, 2007, 2008). She has also coached at the collegiate level at Colorado College (2006) as the head junior varsity coach. In her first year as the CSS head coach, Lee led the varsity girls to their first League and District Championship and second place at the State Championships (2008). The Kodiaks went on to earn a berth for the state tournament for 4 consecutive seasons, and have earned numerous League, District, and Regional Championships. In 2009, Coach Lee earned the (1A-3A) Coach of the Year title from the Gazette Telegraph. Her attributes include a passion for the game, a wealth of experience, and the need for mental and physical discipline. Her coaching philosophy is based upon providing the necessary skills and knowledge to the players, allowing them to learn to be good decision makers and team players on the court. Coach Lee went to high school in Southern California where she graduated as valedictorian in 1987. She attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1991 with Bachelor of Science in Economics with dual concentrations in Finance and Multinational Management.
Vanessa Leeper Jones, Assistant Girls’ Basketball
Coach Jones ’08, a CSS alum who played basketball, volleyball, and soccer for the Kodiaks from 5th through 12th grade, began making her mark on campus as an inquisitive preschooler. In basketball, this All-State guard was named the Colorado 2A Player of the Year, and also the Gazette’s 1A-3A Player of the Year her senior season. She went on to be a starter all four years at University of Nebraska-Kearney, where she earned First-Team Academic All-American, RMAC Academic Player of the Year, Kearney’s Student-Athlete of the Year, and other honors. Jones was also the goalkeeper on the women’s soccer team at UNK. She graduated with a B.A. in Business Administration and a B.S. in Sports Administration and went on to receive a Masters in Marketing from the University of Denver. In 2015, Jones played for the National Chilean Basketball team and was the leading scorer in an Olympic qualifier tournament in Canada. She and her husband Josh have two sons, Elijah and Everett, and they both enjoy investing time empowering teens. Jones enjoys giving back to the CSS community through coaching and mentoring students, and her presence on campus is always welcome.
Tony Little, Head Boys’ Basketball
Coach Little has been involved with coaching basketball for 22 seasons in and around the Colorado Springs area. From 2005-2008 he served as the MS Head Boys’ Basketball Coach at CSS, where his son Jalen helped to lead the Kodiaks to an overall 66-3 record and three Black Forest League and Tournament Championships. Coach Little is proud of the 3 banners that hang in Tutt Field House, representing his connection and appreciation for CSS, a place he considers “home” in many aspects. Little’s career as an Intelligence Operation Specialist in the US Air Force ended with his retirement in 2006; however, his current placement as a Government Civil Service Employee with the 1st Space Operations Squadron keeps him busy at Schriever Air Force Base before heading to CSS for his favorite job, coaching the Kodiaks. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, Tanya, for 35 years and together they have raised their two sons Ryann (35) and Jalen (25). Ryann played basketball at UCCS and Jalen at Abilene Christian University in Texas.
Colleen Patton Campbell, Head Girls’ Tennis
Nataya Stepleton, Assistant Boys’ and Girls’ Soccer
Coach Stepleton returns to CSS where she graduated in 2015 as a multi-sport athlete. Stepleton left her mark on Kodiak Athletics as an All-Conference soccer and basketball player. She earned All-State honors for soccer her senior year as a center midfielder while setting a new school record for goals scored in a season with 20. A recent graduate of The College of Idaho, Stepleton welcomes the opportunity to rejoin the CSS community and share her passion for soccer with both the girls and boys this year. She returned to Colorado Springs and is applying her degree in Business and Social Entrepreneurship while working at Peak Education Fellow.
Caleb Strickland, Assistant Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball
Coach Strickland has been involved in basketball at various levels for the last 35 years. He began competing in basketball in Indiana at the age of 2 and instantly fell in love with the game. In high school, Coach Strickland advanced to the final four in the Indiana State tournament while setting a school record for wins in a season. He was also a Converse All-Star and finished third nationally with his AAU team. Coach Strickland competed at the collegiate level for Indiana University Southeast where he won two conference championships and appeared in two national tournaments. During his collegiate career, Coach Strickland received an offer to play at the professional level in Mexico but declined the offer to focus on academics. Since graduating from college, he has been working as an engineer in the Microelectronics industry while always finding time to stay involved with basketball. Teaching kids to maximize their potential both on and off the court is his true passion. This is Coach Strickland’s first year as a part of the CSS coaching staff, and he is very excited to work in the CSS community where his daughter Adelaide attends school.
Rick Thompson, Assistant Girls’ Tennis
Coach Thompson moved to Colorado Springs this past fall, along with his daughter Jules and wife Joy, who is the Director of Admissions for CSS. He played tennis for Texas A &M and has been teaching tennis for 43 years. Thompson taught at the Wurzburg Tennis Camp in Germany, the Jack Kramer Club in Palos Verdes (CA), Memphis (TN), and Ojai, CA. He has worked with a number of players that found success on the pro circuit, including Melissa Gurney (reached #13 in the world), Kimberly Po (won Wimbledon mixed doubles), and Stella and Pete Sampras. Coach Thompson is also a Certified Personal Trainer and a competitive runner, and he is excited to bring his background in fitness and tennis to the girls’ tennis program this year.
Ryan Troaster, Assistant Boys’ Tennis
Coach Troester joined the Kodiaks this year as an assistant coach after leading the Colorado Springs Christian School boys’ team for the past two seasons. He graduated from CSCS where he played tennis all four years before taking over their program. When CSCS announced that they would not have a tennis team this year, Coach Knutila approached Ryan about helping out with the Kodiaks. These two coaches have worked together in the past and share a similar philosophy when it comes to coaching young people. Coach Troaster is excited about this opportunity to work with the Kodiaks while sharing his passion and love for the game of tennis, a sport that he has been involved with since his youth.
Roger Tucker, Head Junior Varsity Boys’ Lacrosse
Before his retirement in 2018, Coach Tucker was a middle school science teacher at CSS since 1998, when he also began coaching the MS boys’ lacrosse team. He was instrumental in establishing the initial lacrosse program, and his coaching at the middle school and varsity levels led to numerous winning seasons, often competing against schools and clubs in the Denver and Colorado Springs area. His coaching style incorporates hard work and attention to the fundamentals, and his love for working with young people is apparent. Coach Tucker also led the acclaimed 8th grade Walkabout seminar at CSS, where the students explore the Utah deserts and rivers while working on group dynamics and self-assurance. His experience with raptors and wildlife enlightened many classroom discussions over the years, and he is now enjoying sharing his passion for birds with the general public as a hired falconer.
Vicki Vaughan, Head Girls’ Basketball
Coach Vaughan has been coaching basketball for over 30 years. Prior to joining the Kodiaks (2001), she was an assistant coach with the Air Force Academy women’s basketball program where she helped to recruit and to coordinate the Falcons’ summer basketball camps. Before moving to Colorado, Coach Vaughan served seven years as a head coach at Lincoln College in Illinois where her teams gained national NJCAA recognition, and she coached several All-Americans. In 2018 Lincoln College inducted her into the Hall of Fame for her successful stint as a coach. She was the first American to coach professional basketball in Ireland, where her Blarney team won four titles, and she was named IBBA Coach of the Year. Coach Vaughan competed in basketball at Illinois State University where she captained a team that reached post-season play all four seasons and won two MVC titles. At ISU, Vaughan completed her B.S. in English Education and M.S. in Physical Education. In 2013, she was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and Lawrenceburg High School most recently inducted her into their HOF (2019). She was awarded the Mary Flynn Flemke Leadership in Education Award in 2017 for her accomplishments in the education of students and the advancement of CSS.
Kelly Walker, Co-Head Mountain Bike
Coach Walker began coaching cross-country at CSS in the fall of 2009 and was influential in building a competitive MS program. This year she is transitioning into a new position and coaching the mountain bike team, a sport that she has enjoyed most of her lifetime. Coach Walker is a familiar face around campus as she enjoys capturing CSS students in action from behind the camera lens, especially on the playing fields. She graduated from UCCS with a B.A. in Communications, where she also competed in cross-country and was named RMAC All-Conference her senior season. Coach Walker has run the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent several times, placing in the top of her age category. She has also competed in various cycling competitions around the state, including mountain biking and cyclocross. During the summer of 2019, Walker earned certification from the USATF as a Cross Country Specialist. A former national champion snowboarder in slalom and half-pipe events, she is also an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys hiking, cycling, snowboarding, and running.