2017 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball National Championship

The First-Year Coaches Watch List

The First-Year Coaches Watch List

There's a certain amount of pressure that comes with being a first-year coach, especially at top tier programs, where winning is expected. Here are the first-year NCAA Division I women's volleyball coaches we're keeping a close eye on.

Aug 15, 2017 by Megan Kaplon
The First-Year Coaches Watch List
Every offseason features changes in the coaching ranks, but since Stanford was crowned national champion eight months ago it seems like we've seen even more coaching shuffles than usual.

There's a certain amount of pressure that comes with being a first-year coach, especially at top tier programs where winning is expected. Here are the first-year coaches we're keeping a close eye on.

1. Kevin Hambly, Stanford

The Illinois head coach from 2009 to 2016, Kevin Hambly took over the Stanford gig after 16-year Cardinal head coach John Dunning retired in January. Stanford was fresh off of winning the national title, the program's seventh, and Dunning's retirement came as a shock to the volleyball community.

With the new gig, Hambly returns to his home state of California. He brings a 178-86 overall head coaching record to the Farm, including a national championship match appearance with the Illini in 2011.

Hambly inherits a young Stanford team, including four sophomores who started on the national championship squad as freshmen.

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2. Chris Tamas, Illinois

With the Hambly's departure for Palo Alto, an opening was created in Champaign. Enter Chris Tamas, who is embarking on his first collegiate head coaching adventure after serving as an assistant at Nebraska, Cal Poly, Minnesota, and UC Riverside.

Tamas played at the University of the Pacific and was named first team All-American as a senior before joining the U.S. men's national team. In his eight seasons as a collegiate assistant, Tamas accumulated an overall record of 139-112, and in 2015, his first season at Nebraska, the Huskers won the national championship.

The team he takes over from Hambly at Illinois did not make the NCAA tournament last year, after advancing to the Sweet 16 the previous three seasons, so Tamas' goal will be to return this team to their previous standard of excellence.

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3. Matt Ulmer, Oregon

The players on the University of Oregon team were already very familiar with Matt Ulmer when he was named the program's new head coach in April. The Carthage College grad had been a member of the Ducks' coaching staff the past three years, but that doesn't mean the transition is going to be an easy one.

Former head coach Jim Moore and his wife and assistant coach Stacy Metro left the program in March amid allegations of inappropriate coaching tactics by former players. Although at first it was leaked that Moore and Metro had been fired, the final word from the university was that Moore retired and Metro was reassigned.

Before coming to Oregon in 2014, Ulmer was an assistant with the indoor team at Long Beach State and the head coach of the 49ers beach team, which won the national championship in 2013.

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4. Robyn Ah Mow-Santos, Hawaii

Talk about big shoes to fill. New Hawaii women's volleyball coach Robyn Ah Mow-Santos stepped into the head coaching position after the retirement of 42-year head coach Dave Shoji, a legend on the islands and in the national volleyball community.

Luckily, Ah Mow-Santos' resume is nothing to scoff at. The three-time Olympian was a two-time first team All-American during her collegiate career at Hawaii, and from 2011 to 2015, she served as an assistant coach on the U of H staff under Shoji. Most recently, the former setter coached at the Vegas Aces club in Nevada.

In all but one of the past five seasons, Hawaii has been knocked out in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Ah Mow-Santos, who led Hawaii to the national championship match in 1996 as a player, will certainly be aiming higher, hoping to take the team to its first Final Four since 2009.

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5. Dani Busboom-Kelly, Louisville

Another former Nebraska assistant embarking on her first head coaching gig, Dani Busboom-Kelly takes over at Louisville for Anne Kordes, who resigned following the 2016 season. Busboom-Kelly spent the fast five seasons at Nebraska, but she's familiar with the Louisville program, having served as Kordes' assistant in 2011 when the Cardinals went 24-9 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

While she was on the Nebraska staff, the Huskers went 134-30 and won the national championship in 2015. Busboom-Kelly also played at Nebraska, where she served as team captain, seeing the court as a libero and a setter.

The 2017 Louisville team that Kordes passes on to Busboom-Kelly was picked eighth in the ACC Preseason Coaches Poll, and players Tess Clark and Molly Sauer made the preseason All-ACC team. Two of the last three years, however, the Cardinals failed to make the NCAA tournament.

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6. Sanja Tomasevic, Arizona State

In another drama-filled transfer of power, former ASU assistant Sanja Tomasevic took over after the resignation of Stevie Mussie, who served at the Sun Devils' head coach for only one season.

In 2016 Arizona State went 12-20 overall with a 5-15 mark in the Pac-12, and seven players have transferred out of Tempe -- eight if you count Bree Bailey, who left the team last August, prior to the 2016 season.

Tomasevic brings five years of assistant coaching experience to her first head coaching appointment, spending time at Miami and UT San Antonio before coming to ASU. She was also an accomplished player, earning the AVCA National Player of the Year honor in 2005 after leading Washington to the national championship.

This season will be a rebuilding year in every sense of the word. Tomasevic will be playing the long game, looking to get this program back on track.

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7. Matt McShane, Cal

Rich Feller served as the head coach of the Cal Bears for 18 years before announcing his retirement in May. Cal then promoted Matt McShane, who had served as an associate head coach in 2016 and was Feller's assistant in Berkeley from 2005 to 2009.

Unlike many of the other coaches featured in this list, this is not McShane's first time at the helm of a Division I program. After leaving Cal in 2009, McShane became the head coach of the Air Force program. His resume also includes assistant coaching stints at Utah, New Mexico, and BYU.

Cal hasn't made the postseason since 2013, when it lost to Wisconsin in the second round, and McShane will have to choose a new libero after the graduation of four-year starter Maddie Kerr.

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8. Tom Black, Georgia

Tom Black spent the last seven seasons at Loyola Marymount and the five seasons before that at UC San Diego. This season marks his first non-California coaching gig as he takes over the University of Georgia program.

Black brings a 242-115 head coaching record to Athens, in addition to a wealth of experience with the U.S. women's national team, including serving as an assistant coach with the 2016 Olympic team, which won bronze in Rio.

Georgia last made it to the NCAA tournament in 2013 and is 5-9 in postseason play all-time. While at LMU, Black led his team to three NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the Round of 16 in 2015. He'll be looking to replicate that success with his Georgia squad.

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9. Aaron Mansfield, Loyola Marymount

Taking over for Tom Black, Aaron Mansfield comes to Loyola Marymount from fellow West Coast Conference school Santa Clara, where he was an associate head coach.

Mansfield played collegiately at UC Santa Barbara and started his coaching career there as an assistant with the men's team. He was hired at Santa Clara in 2012, and helped lead the team to an NCAA tournament appearance in his first season. The team made it to three NCAA postseasons in the four seasons Mansfield was with the program.

Mansfield will seek to return the Lions to the tournament after they missed the cut in 2016 for the first time since 2013.

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10. Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer, Long Beach State

Like Ah Mow-Santos, Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer is returning to her alma mater and accepting her first-ever head coaching position. The new Long Beach State head coach takes over for Brian Gimmillaro who retired after 32 years at the helm.

In 1993, McKienzie-Fuerbringer earned All-American honors and led her team to a national championship title. She first joined the LBSU coaching staff as an assistant in 1999 and 2000, and she served as an assistant at UCLA from 2010 to 2013.

McKienzie-Fuerbringer is also well-known in the volleyball community for her position as the head coach and director of Mizuno Long Beach Volleyball Club.

The Long Beach State team McKienzie-Fuerbringer inherits isn't exactly the powerhouse they were when she was on the team. The 49ers haven't made the NCAA tournament since 2014, and they last made the regional rounds in 2001.

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11. Jill Wilson, Virginia Tech

Former Louisiana State assistant Jill Wilson got the job at Virginia Tech shortly after the resignation of former Hookie head coach Chris Riley. In his 11 seasons at VT, Riley guided the team to only one NCAA tournament, and at the conclusion of the 2016 season, the Hookies stood ninth in the ACC.

Wilson served as recruiting coordinator at LSU, her alma mater, and in her 10 years in Baton Rouge (four as an associate head coach), the Tigers made the NCAA tournament six times and won the SEC in 2009.

As a former assistant at North Carolina and Wake Forest, Wilson is familiar with the ACC, in which her new squad was picked to finish 12th in the ACC Preseason Coaches Poll.

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12. Aaron Smith, Virginia

Thirty-two-year-old Aaron Smith took over the Virginia program after former head coach Dennis Hohenshelt resigned in January. A Virginia native and Penn State grad, Smith had been the assistant/associate head coach at UVA for five years before being promoted.

Smith began his coaching career a year after graduating from PSU, taking an assistant position at Wake Forest, and then spending three years as an assistant at Northwestern. During his time at Virginia, the team recorded three consecutive winning seasons; however, the Cavaliers haven't made the NCAA tournament since 1999.

The ACC coaches ranked Virginia 13th in the preseason poll, and did not select any of the players to the Preseason All-ACC team.

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