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Dobyns-Bennett names LaGuardia boys' soccer coach

Jeff Birchfield • Jan 14, 2019 at 9:55 PM

Dobyns-Bennett High School hopes to keep its boys soccer program flying high with Monday's announcement that Tom LaGuardia has been named the new coach.

LaGuardia, a 1992 Dobyns-Bennett graduate, previously served as head coach at Sullivan South and North Buncombe High School in Weaverville, North Carolina. LaGuardia led the Rebels to their first-ever Region 1-AAA championship in 2005, a season highlighted by wins over Dobyns-Bennett, Science Hill and Tennessee High.

His three years at North Buncombe High School represented the most successful span in school history. He also served four years with the Clemson Soccer Academy in South Carolina. In March 2018, he joined the semi-pro Tri-Cities Otters as the team's goalkeeper coach — working alongside Science Hill High School head coach David Strickland.

LaGuardia, who said in a statement that he was humbled to lead the D-B program, talked about what the opportunity meant to him as a D-B graduate.

"Frankly, if it had been any other high school, I wouldn't have considered it," LaGuardia said. "There's something special about Dobyns-Bennett and being able to come back as a Dobyns-Bennett alum."

He takes over a vacancy left by Blake Rutherford resigning back on Oct. 31 to pursue a job opportunity outside of coaching and teaching. The Indians went 84-18-6 in five seasons under Rutherford, including 19-1-2 in 2018, when they swept Big Seven Conference, District 1-AAA and Region 1-AAA titles on their way to a state tournament berth.

While some of the key players from that squad have graduated, LaGuardia likes what he sees with those returning. Among those, Jack Perry was named last season's Big Seven Conference midfielder of the year, while Jacob Park was the goalkeeper of the year.

"There is a tremendous amount of talent back on this roster," LaGuardia said. "There were some key pieces who were lost from last year, but watching the agility session on day one, I'm happy with what I see."

As a player, LaGuardia was a defender on the 1991 Dobyns-Bennett team which lost 2-1 to Christian Brothers in the state championship match. His teams were among the top eight in the state all four years of his high school career, including a senior season when he played goalkeeper.

At the next level, LaGuardia redshirted a freshman season at Clemson before transferring to St. John's in New York, where he was part of the 1993 Big East Conference championship team.

Dobyns-Bennett athletic director Larry Shively issued a statement about the new hire.

"We are excited to welcome Coach LaGuardia back to Dobyns-Bennett," Shively said. "Coach LaGuardia has a track record of developing and sustaining a successful soccer program at two different high schools. His attention to culture, detail and a complete vision of soccer in Kingsport were apparent in the interview process. I know that he is very passionate about D-B soccer and we look forward to him serving our student athletes."

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