by Kathy DeBoer, AVCA Executive Director
Last fall, Terry Wansart, a long-time friend, former volleyball coach, and current athletics director at Hunter College, called with a plea to the AVCA to help her find a men’s volleyball coach. A successful program in the heart of Manhattan in New York City, the Hunter job needed the right fit as they were not going to compete on salary. The job had been listed in the AVCA Online Career Center for a couple of months, but she was not getting applicants with the experience and skills to lead her program. She was calling to ask for a more targeted approach to find candidates.
We sent out multiple appeals to every sector of our community in the east – college, club, high school – and endured the wrath of those who were furious that a college was trying to hire a coach for such a paltry salary, others berating Hunter College and the AVCA for not caring about men’s volleyball, and even some who suggested that Hunter drop men’s volleyball if they couldn’t afford a more significant level of commitment.
The fall semester started, the nontraditional season was looming, and still Hunter was without a coach.
AD Wansart (pictured here) traded her pumps for sneakers and added men’s volleyball practices to her list of duties. In her mid-fifties and by her own admission, out of shape for running practices, she shared on her last call for assistance that every part of her body hurt. One of the senior captains, Steven Tarquinio, picked up some of the slack by ordering equipment, scheduling transportation, and organizing weight-training.
Finally on December 15, Wansart, ever the budgeting magician, announced the hiring of Austin Voges, an experienced coach who had assisted at the Stevens Institute of Technology during several very successful seasons between 2011 and 2013. Voges’ experience was immediately obvious as he guided the Hunter team to the CUNYAC championship, a victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and a matchup with #1 seed Springfield College in the round of eight.
This is where I caught up with Terry Wansart (pictured here): the beaming AD had recovered from her full-body ache and was celebrating the most successful season in school history at the NCAA banquet. In a nod to their ‘against all odds’ story, Tarquinio, in his remarks to the gathering, told us they had renamed themselves ‘the white van’ gang, after their signature method of transportation. The NCAA transportation allowance gave them the first opportunity of the season to travel by charter bus.
Stories like this can end in so many ways: fittingly, their charter had a flat tire on the morning of their match and Springfield staff had to pick them up in, you guessed it, white vans. No, Hunter did not upset the hometown favorites and go on to win the NCAA Championship, and like most successful college teams they will graduate their AVCA First-Team All-American and jack-of-all-trades, Tarquinio, along with two other senior starters, and Voges will be rebuilding next year.
But still, this feels like a success story for our sport!