2002 Tachikara/AVCA Division III Region Coaches of the Year


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2002 AVCA/Tachikara Division III Region
Coaches of the Year for Women's Volleyball Announced

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO - The following coaches have been selected by their region as AVCA/Tachikara Region Coach of the Year. Each of the honorees will represent their region on the National Coach of the Year ballot. The awards will be officially presented at the AVCA/Tachikara Coach of the Year banquet in New Orleans on Thursday, Dec. 19, at the 2002 American Volleyball Coaches Association National Convention. Six of the eight selections have advanced their teams to the NCAA Division III Championship quarterfinal round to be played on Nov. 23.

Central Region Coach of the Year
Megan Clayberg, Central College (Iowa)
2002 Record: 22-15 (9-0 in Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference)
Central overcame more adversity this season than it has faced in any of Megan Clayberg's 12 years. The Dutch climbed to No. 16 in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll and currently rank 18th. Central returned just one starter from last season's team. In addition to fielding a young team, Central has played arguably the toughest schedule in school history. Of the team's first 32 matches, 20 were against nationally ranked opponents. Central scored victories against ranked teams such as UW-River Falls, St. Thomas (Minn.), Wartburg and Ohio Northern. Central claimed the top spot in IIAC regular season play and placed second in the league tournament to claim a share the overall conference championship - the seventh in a row. This marks her fifth region coach of the year award (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002)

Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year
Connie Surowicz, Wittenberg University
2002 Record: 34-7 (8-0 in North Coast Athletic Conference)
Connie Surowicz holds an overall record of 251-93 at Wittenberg with a six-year string of NCAA tournament appearances. The Tigers, ranked third in the national poll, have advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2002 NCAA tournament, having earned the No. 1 seed in the Great Lakes region. Wittenberg defeated several nationally ranked teams including then-No. 6 Mount St. Joseph, then-No. 3 Juniata and then-No. 1 Washington University in the same weekend. Other nationally ranked teams defeated by Wittenberg this season include Central, Baldwin-Wallace, Wartburg, UW-River Falls, Ohio Northern, Puget Sound, and Nazareth. Surowicz led her team to its sixth consecutive NCAC Tournament title, and WU has gone undefeated in conference play the past five seasons. The Tigers are currently ranked among the top 12 nationally in assists per game (fourth), kills per game (ninth) and hitting percentage (12th).

Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year
Mark Birtwistle, Eastern University
2002 Record:  32-6 (12-0 in Pennsylvania Athletic Conference)
Mark Birtwistle led Eastern to the most wins in program history with 32 in 2002 and improves his career coaching record to 262-126 (.675). The Eagles made their eighth straight PAC finals appearance and collected their sixth consecutive conference title. Eastern earned its first national ranking in program history at No. 25. The Eagles opened the 2002 season with two tournament titles, a 12-0 start, then won their first match against a nationally ranked team, King's College, which stood at No. 23 and was undefeated at 30-0 on the year. Eastern also earned a No. 1 ranking in the Mid-Atlantic region for two weeks. Birtwistle has led the Eagles to 42 straight conference wins and just this year relinquished a 59 home-court winning streak, placing Eastern third all-time on the NCAA Division III chart. Eastern earned a spot in the NCAA Championship field for the fourth straight year and advanced to the second round.

Midwest Region Coach of the Year
Kris Russell, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
2002 Record: 33-4 (7-1 in Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference)
Kris Russell's Wisconsin-Whitewater squad took the top seed in the Midwest region and rode it to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championship. Russell holds a 745-215 won-loss record and led UW-Whitewater to its 10th consecutive NCAA appearance. The Warhawks won the WIAC tournament title and shared the regular season title with UW-River Falls. UWW is currently ranked sixth and during the season defeated Wittenberg, Mount St. Joseph, Elmhurst, Central College, Wartburg and UW-River Falls for the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The squad is ranked in the top six nationally in both kills and assists per game. Russell has been named region coach of the year for the fifth time (1988, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2002).

New England Region Coach of the Year
Fran Vandermeer, Williams College
2002 Record: 36-5 (9-1 in New England Small College Athletic Conference)
As the New England region's fourth seed, Fran Vandermeer has guided Williams to the quarterfinal round of the 2002 NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship for the first time in school history. The Ephs knocked off top-seed Wellesley 3-1, and then swept second- seed Gordon to earn a meeting with Juniata College. Williams' 36 wins is a program best and has been achieved without a senior on the roster. Vandermeer's squad has one junior, three sophomores and six first-year players on the roster and won the NESCAC Tournament title for the second year in a row. Williams sits at No. 23 in this week's AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll and is ranked among the nation's leaders in team hitting percentage (18th). Vandermeer has also served as an official at the NCAA Division II Volleyball Championship finals on five occasions, as well as for several NCAA Division I matches.

New York Region Coach of the Year
Linda Downey, Nazareth College
2002 Record: 36-5 (7-0 in Empire 8)
Linda Downey has been named the New York Region Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. The Golden Flyers made their third consecutive NCAA Championship appearance and have advanced to the quarterfinals as the New York Region's champion for the second straight year. Nazareth won the Empire 8 regular season championship and its second Empire 8 Tournament title in a row. The Golden Flyers have captured their highest regular season national ranking, as they currently are listed at No. 19 in the AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll. Four of Nazareth's five losses have come against nationally ranked teams: Trinity, Wittenberg, and Baldwin-Wallace twice. Downey's squad currently boasts a 14-match win streak, and Nazareth is ranked nationally in hitting percentage (14th), kills per game (11th) and assists per game (22nd).

South Region Coach of the Year
Julie Jenkins, Trinity University (Texas)
2002 Record: 36-4 (18-0 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference)
Julie Jenkins has led Trinity to its 11th consecutive playoff appearance, including eight appearances in the Sweet 16 (1992-95, 98-99, 2001-2002). The Tigers have advanced to the quarterfinals of this year's NCAA Tournament. Against Division III opponents in 2002 the Tigers are 30-0 for the first time in school history. Trinity's only losses in 2002 have been to NCAA Division II top-ranked West Texas A&M, NAIA seventh-ranked Houston Baptist, Arkansas Tech and Chaminade, both NCAA Division II programs. The Tigers have been ranked in the top 10 in the AVCA Division III Coaches Poll since the initial pre-season ranking, and have been fourth in the nation since the third regular season poll (Oct. 2). This award marks Jenkins' second consecutive and third total region coach of the year honor (1999, 2001, 2002).

West Region Coach of the Year
Jim Spagle, Cal State Hayward
2002 Record: 32-1
Jim Spagle guided Cal State Hayward to the NCAA West Region championship as the region's No. 1 seed for the first time in school history. Moving from No. 9 in the preseason poll to No. 1, the Pioneers have posted a school-record 32 wins, and are riding a school-best 21-match win streak into the NCAA quarterfinals. Cal State Hayward has held the No. 1 in the AVCA poll for three weeks and has never been ranked worse than third during the 2002 regular season. Spagle's squad has registered sweeps in 24 of 32 victories and has been extended to five games on only four occasions, three of which have been while facing nationally ranked foes. Cal State Hayward posted an 8-0 record versus opponents ranked in the AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll (Oct. 20) at some point during the season. The Pioneers' lone loss of the season was to Notre Dame de Namur, and was later avenged to even the series at 1-1 for the season.

 -AVCA -

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