No matter the sport, the universal benchmark of a successful season remains an NCAA tournament bid. In women’s volleyball, several young coaches have recently punched tickets for programs where an invite seemed but a pipedream just a few years ago.
For David McFatrich’s Central Arkansas, a 2012 NCAA appearance marked the first in school history. The Sugar Bears also adorned their banner year with Central Arkansas-firsts for a 30-win season and a SLC championship. Next season, McFatrich will look to replicate the successes of his historic 2012, as Bond Shymansky recently did at Marquette. In 2012, Shymansky’s Golden Eagles (27-7, RPI: 33) secured a second-consecutive and second-ever NCAA appearance, for a program that went 11-18 (RPI: 148) in the season preceding his 2009 hire. And though not a complete stranger to the big dance, NC State’s three-year about-face under Bryan Bunn does find the Wolfpack already back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1987, just the most noteworthy in a flurry of 2012 milestones including the program’s most regular season wins since 1982, and most ACC wins ever.
A handful of other new coaches ended postseason droughts shorter in duration but which looked equally irreparable at their hiring. Arkansas’ Robert Pulliza and San Diego State’s 2012 MWC Coach of the Year Deitre Collins-Parker have both bettered their previous year’s win total and RPI in each season at the helm, en route to their teams’ first NCAA tournament appearances since 2006 and 2001, respectively. Tom Black’s third season at Loyola Marymount ended in the Lady Lions’ first tournament since 2005, while Shawn Olmstead quickly transformed BYU from a 14-16 (RPI: 86) squad in 2010, the year before he took over, into a 28-14 (RPI: 13) 2012 season and a Sweet 16 appearance.
Plenty more young coaches (two to five years with team) have built up winning programs with consistent year-to-year improvements. These programs may very likely appear in an upcoming NCAA tournament if they continue their upward trends:
The third-winningest season in program history saw the Bengals’ first Big Sky tournament victory and first undefeated home campaign since 1987.
Netherby-Sewell has remarkably led the Lady Bulldogs to a higher RPI final standing in each season since her first in 2008.
Werneke has led the Scarlett Knights from just two wins in his first season to the program’s first winning season since 2004 and most wins since 2000.
From a losing season in his first year, Atkinson has quickly taken the Tigers to the top of the CAA, the program’s first conference championship since 2004.
The Lady Demons’ 20 wins in 2012 were the program’s most since 1975 and included 12 in SLC play, the most in school history.
The Kangaroos’ 17 wins in Posey’s sophomore campaign are the second most in school history.
Ganes’ Owls saw an 11-win turnaround en route to the A-10 semifinals, their first conference postseason action since 2009.
The Ramblers’ 13-win turnaround from 2011 to 2012 was the nation’s largest.
Yankus’ Lady Redhawks have won seven more games than they did in the previous campaign in each of her two seasons.
The chart below displays each program’s overall improvement in RPI (represented by the y-values) and win totals (x-values) since each coach’s first season. The school logos for programs led by fifth-year coaches are outlined in circles, fourth-year coaches in diamonds, and third-year coaches in squares.