BUMP, SET, SPIKE

New coach nets SoCon Volleyball Coach of the Year after the volleyball program earns its most wins since 2003

By TERESA KILLIAN TATE

First-year head coach Karen Glover wanted all of the Catamount volleyball players coming into a team predicted to finish last in the Southern Conference’s North Division to take to heart that the past was the past and together they were making a fresh start. “In our first team meeting, that’s what we discussed,” said Glover. “‘Pretend like you just met each other.’”

What the six returning players and eight freshmen wanted to put behind them was a record marked by only nine conference match wins in four seasons, and they succeeded. Working with Glover and assistant coach John Brannon, the team finished the fall with 13 overall wins – the most in a season for a WCU team since 2003 – and an 8-8 record in conference play. They earned third seed at the conference tournament, and freshmen Caitlin Piechota and Jordan Timmermann were named to the conference’s All-Freshman Team, making WCU one of only two conference teams to have multiple players on the squad. In addition, Glover was honored as the 2011 Southern Conference Volleyball Coach of the Year.

“It was really a great honor as there are a lot of great coaches in the SoCon,” said Glover, who credited Brannon and the players for their hard work during the season. “I attribute this award to them.”

Glover brought to WCU her experience as a teacher and an award-winning volleyball coach. She had served as an assistant volleyball coach at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and head coach at Arizona Western College and Phoenix College. Before the season, she met with returning players to hear what had worked and what had not. She and Brannon committed to the players to being consistent and clear in their communication, and the players agreed early on to see things as a team and to be responsible for and answer to each other, even if it was just a matter of making sure that not only they but also their teammates made it to practice and class on time. “They helped each other out and worked together,” said Glover. “They played as a team. They acted like a team. That is what really paid off.”

Brannon said part of Glover’s strength as a coach is the environment she fosters for players. “She focuses on building the team, allows players to play through mistakes and teaches them to expect success regardless of what everyone outside of the program might or might not expect,” he said. Brannon also noted that Glover has an ability to read players and coach them in a way that maximizes their abilities, and she encourages them to enjoy being a student-athlete in every aspect, from practice to cheering on other WCU teams. “I expect that WCU volleyball will continue to build and grow,” he said.