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When Randol Mendoza took over the Greenfield School soccer program in 2014, he knew he had some big shoes to fill in outgoing head coach Ben Forbes, who won nearly 700 games and 19 combined North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A boys and girls championships.
As Mendoza reflected on his last day as the Greenfield coach Friday at the girls alumni game, he could say that he added to the winning tradition of the Knights and Lady Knights.
Mendoza is stepping down to take a job with Randstad USA, a staffing company located in Rocky Mount. He will be replaced for the remainder of the girls season by longtime volunteer assistant coach Russell Stone as the school begins its search for a full-time boys and girls coach.
“It was a hard decision to come to but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” said Mendoza, a former Barton College soccer player. “It took a lot of time to decide on it just because I would be leaving coaching soccer. So, it was tough. It hasn’t been easy at all and it hasn’t gotten any easier as we’ve gotten closer to the last day.”
He and his wife, the former Patricia Acosta — who also played soccer at Barton — have two young children: Sofia, who is nearly 3, and James, 1. While Mendoza’s heart will remain with Greenfield and soccer, his first obligation is to his family.
“We’re sad to see Randol go because he’s done so much for the kids and the program but we understand he needs to do what he has to do for his family,” said Stone, who has helped Mendoza with the Knights all four years of his tenure and two seasons, including this one, with the Lady Knights.
Mendoza worked previously for Universal Leaf and BB&T, so he’s no stranger to the corporate routine. Additionally, after teaching physical education his first year, as well as working in the business office at Greenfield all four years, Mendoza was the school’s online grading software administrator the past three years.
“This time around it’s something that I know what I’m getting into and at least I have that experience to fall back on,” he said.
Mendoza’s combined record at Greenfield was 82-60-8 but his won-loss totals for the boys was 63-26-7. He directed the Knights to the NCISAA 1-A semifinals all four years and his 2016 team won the state title. He was the Coastal Plain Independents Conference Coach of the Year three times and twice earned the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association 1-A Private School Coach of the Year for the state, including last fall.
“I knew that I was filling in big shoes and I kid about this all the time — I only wear size 9!” he said of replacing Forbes, for whom the school’s soccer field is named. “But as soon as I came in, it wasn’t about Forbes versus Mendoza, it was about carrying that tradition that Coach Forbes had established. I was OK carrying that torch and that weight but I had my own ideas about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to take the program to that next step. It’s been fun. It’s never felt like a job and people ask me all the time about it and I tell them it’s the easiest job I’ve ever had, just because it’s natural.”
Stone, a 1993 Greenfield graduate and former member of its board of trustees, played soccer, basketball and baseball for the Knights. So he was the obvious choice as the Lady Knights interim coach. His daughter, Caroline, is a sophomore midfielder and his son, Jackson, is a rising senior midfielder for the Knights.
“I think our coaching styles and philosophies are pretty similar so I think it will be a smooth transition for the girls,” said Stone, who is a doctor of optometry at Wilson Eye Associates.
Stone and Mendoza also coached together for Wilson Youth Soccer Association.
Stone noted that he will have assistant coach Luis Giron, as well as the junior varsity coaches Rebecca Thompson and Brittany Mercer, to help him.
All those people helped make Mendoza’s decision a little easier.
“While it was a hard decision to make, I had full confidence in Russell Stone, Luis Giron, Rebecca Thompson and Brittany Mercer,” he said. “Russell has probably coached alongside me the last six or seven years. So he’s somebody we were confident could carry the girls through this academic year.”
So far the Lady Knights are 2-2 and Stone thinks they are capable of returning to the NCISAA 1-A playoffs.
“They have a good group of girls,” he said. “There’s a lot of youth on the team but they have a good attitude and they’re working hard.”
While Mendoza will be missed in the short term, he revealed that once he is settled in his new position at Randstad USA, he hopes to return as a part-time assistant coach for the Knights and Lady Knights as early as next fall.
“I don’t see myself getting too far from Greenfield — and soccer,” he said.