Cal U’s newest head coaches bring a blend of experience and familiarity to Vulcans athletics.
Alumna April Gitzen '09, '10 has returned to coach swimming. Anita Onufer joins Cal U as head tennis coach and assistant swimming coach.
“Without a doubt the opportunity to return to my alma mater was a driving force,” says Gitzen, who calls retired swim coach Ed Denny a mentor.
“This University has given me so much, and the chance to give back and help others here is an honor.”
Gitzen comes back to Cal U after eight seasons as head coach for men's and women's swimming at WestVirginia Wesleyan. She received Mountain East Conference Coach of the Year honors three times and guided both teams to MEC championships in 2019.
As a Vulcans swimmer, Gitzen earned All-PSAC honors in both the 400individual medley and the medley relay team. She was a College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Scholar All-America honoree in 2009.
Onufer spent the past two seasons on the coaching staff at PSAC rival Seton Hill. A three-sport athlete at Saint Vincent College, she was a member of the Bearcats’ tennis, swimming and lacrosse teams.
As a tennis player, Onufer posted a combined 10 wins in singles play and 15 wins in doubles over her last two seasons. In the pool, she was a member of the conference champion 200 freestyle relay team and earned all-conference recognition in the 100 butterfly.
“Competing just a few years ago really helps me relate to student-athletes and all the demands placed on them,” Onufer says.
“Being in their shoes so recently allows me to have compassion for them, but also to share my experiences and help them work through their struggles so they can be their best in all aspects of life.”
Both coaches emphasize academic commitment.
“It is vital that each of our student-athletes earns their degree with a strong grade-point average,” Gitzen says.
“That degree will not read ‘women’s swimming,' which is why grades will always come first. College is the start of their careers.”
Overall, Cal U Athletics has compiled a GPA of 3.10 or higher for 18 of the past 19 semesters. The swimming team has earned CSCAA Scholar All-America Team status for 17 consecutive years and had a 3.48 cumulative team GPA last spring
“That is something that each and every student-athlete and coach should be proud of,” says Onufer, who owns two degrees. “We have very motivated ladies … but I still remind athletes to strive to be the best they can be, ultimately setting themselves up for success in the future.”`
Gitzen and Onufer met only recently, but their philosophies already are in sync.
“Anita is a talented coach with energy, innovative ideas and the passion to be successful,” Gitzen says. “Both of us are here to help these teams succeed.”