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NCAA volleyball: B1G media days, Caffey leaving Huskers, coaching carousel, worldy Wingate, AVCA hall

The countdown has begun. We are inside a month until the start of the NCAA women’s volleyball season. And this is a chance to empty the notebook and have some fun in doing so as we charge into August with an eye on the last weekend when the schedule is chock full.

BIG TEN LEADS THE WAY: Things get real Monday in Chicago with the first Olympic sport event of its kind, Big Ten volleyball media days.

Media days are a staple of Power 5 football and basketball, and many other conferences have football media days, but this is huge for our sport. The head coaches and two players from each program are headed to the Big Ten Network studios.

On Monday, in order of appearance:
Northwestern — Shane Davis, Temi Thomas-Ailara, Megan Miller
Michigan State — Leah Johnson, Rebecka Poljan, Nalani Iosia
Michigan — Mark Rosen, Jess Mruzik, Jess Robinson
Indiana — Steve Aird, Camryn Haworth, Paula Cerame
Nebraska — John Cook, Madi Kubik, Kenzie Knuckles
Ohio State — Jen Flynn Oldenburg, Kylie Murr, Mac Podraza
Purdue — Dave Shondell, Raven Colvin, Emma Ellis

And on Tuesday:
Rutgers — Caitlin Schweifhofer, Madyson Chitty, Rachel Tam
Maryland — Adam Hughes, Rainelle Jones, Sydney Dowler
Iowa — Jim Barnes, Amiya Jones, Toyosi Onabanjo
Illinois — Chris Tamas, Diana Brown, Kennedy Collins
Wisconsin — Kelly Sheffield, Anna Smrek, Sarah Franklin
Minnesota — Hugh McCutcheon, CC McGraw, Taylor Landfair
Penn State — Katie Schumacher-Cawley, Taylor Trammell, Anjelina Starck

That’s a lot of volleyball people to interview and a lot of stories to stockpile. We will be there and will have stories on Monday and Tuesday.

The Big Ten has won five of the last nine NCAA titles — with four teams finishing second in tht span — including Wisconsin beating Nebraska in the final to get its first championship last December.

Well worthy of volleyball media days. Note that the Big Ten Network will air recap shows from each day at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Will other conferences follow suit? At the least, in the arms race that is college sports, expect virtual volleyball media days from some of the other leagues next summer.

CAFFEY LEAVING HUSKERS: Speaking of the Big Ten and Nebraska, in last December’s NCAA title match, when Wisconsin beat Nebraska in five, middle Kayla Caffey had 15 kills, four blocks and a dig. For the season, she was third on the team in kills and led with 118 blocks, nine solo. And now the 6-foot fourth-team All-American middle from Chicago is leaving.

From the story by Lincoln Arneal in the Omaha World-Herald:

Caffey finished her sixth year of college volleyball in December and earned her master’s degree in teaching, learning and teacher’s education. She went through the beach season with the Huskers and spring practice, however, she did not dress for NU’s exhibition in April. Cook said Caffey’s eligibility was a complex situation involving lots of moving parts.

In late May, the coach said the NCAA granted her a waiver for a seventh season but there was still a decision to be made between Nebraska and Caffey. Last week during his monthly podcast with his daughter Lauren Cook West, (Nebraska coach) John Cook said: “The ball is in her court.” 

Cook released the following statement Thursday:

“Kayla’s situation has been unlike any other we’ve ever dealt with before because of her medical redshirt, her transfer and the COVID year,” Cook said in a press release. “Obviously, we took our time with this to make sure it was the right decision for everybody.

“Ultimately, Kayla has chosen to move on from Nebraska, and I support her and am proud of her and the accomplishments she’s achieved both on and off the court at Nebraska. She has a lot of options on the table whether that be play one more year in college, become a professional volleyball player or begin her career in education, which she has worked very hard at preparing for over the years earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Kayla will do big things, and I wish her all the best.”

COACHING CAROUSEL: It’s been spinning later than usual this offseason. Here’s an effort to catch up.

Just this past Monday, Iona announced it hired Andy Mueller as its head coach. Mueller was an assistant at LIU. Iona finished 10-18 last season, 8-10 in the MAAC, under Esai Velez-Perez. Velez-Perez coached Iona for three seasons … 

Lamar earlier this month hired Brandon Crisp. His long resume includes a most recent stop at Harvester, which won the 2017 NJCAA title. Lamar went 4-22 last season under Jordan Lay, 0-12 in its first year in the WAC, but is returning to the Southland Conference … 

Also earlier this month, Bellarmine hired former Auburn coach Rick Nold. He replaced Jenni Grzebin, who stepped down after nine years. Her team finished 6-22 in 2021, 2-14 in the ASUN … 

Syracuse of the ACC in late June hired Bakeer Ganesharatnam, who was fired after last season at Temple. Ganesharatnam went 173-144 in 11 seasons in Philadelphia, 7-24 this past year, 3-17 in the American Athletic Conference. Longtime Syracuse coach Leonid Yellin left after 10 seasons and returned to Division II Barry in Florida, where he coached that program to the 1995 national title … 

Manhattan, 2-20 last year, 2-16 in the MAAC, is without a head coach. Marianne Reilly was fired in March after going 21-106 in five years … Former Alabama head coach Lindsey Devine is a volunteer coach at Mississippi State … 

Adam Niemczynowicz is the new men’s coach at Sacred Heart. He had been at Bard College for five years. Sacred Heart finished 10-17 last season, 2-14 in the EIVA, under Bob Bertucci. Sacred Heart is leaving the EIVA for the Northeast Conference in 2023 …

And then there’s Grambling State, which is also without a coach. 

This past February, the north Louisiana school hired Chelsey Lucas, who was at fellow SWAC school Arkansas-Pine Bluff. But Lucas, who played at Grambling and was the 2006 conference defensive player of the year, in essence cut the entire team. 

It didn’t go over well. 

A relentless social-media barrage ensued with more accusations than can be imagined and eventually Grambling fired Lucas. In the July 5 announcement it said, “The decision was made due to the determination of an internal investigation within the volleyball program. Any additional comments will be held until the conclusion of the investigation.”

For a look at some of the anger Lucas caused, you can check out this occasionally outrageous but certainly persistent Twitter account.

Grambling finished 11-17 last season, 8-8 in the SWAC, under Demetria Keys-Johnson. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the news release included, “A national search for a new volleyball coach will begin this week.”

There are currently no players or coaches listed on the Grambling website. Read the Grambling news release here.

MEN’S TOURNEY EXPANSION: Currently, the NCAA men’s tournament includes seven teams, with five automatic bids for the Big West, MPSF, MIVA, EIVA, and Conference Carolinas. The NCAA earlier this month said its Competition Oversight Committee recommended expanding to 12 teams — not next season — but in 2024.

Click here to read the NCAA report.

WINGATE GOES GLOBAL: One of the coolest volleyball experiences I’ve had was going to Pula, Croatia, earlier this month for the Bring It Promotions (BIP) Global Challenge. There were quite a few colleges represented in the international tournament that had division in U23 and U18. We wrote about the U23 championship match (read the story here) and I even got to present the MVP award to Utah outside hitter Madelyn Robinson. 

But one thing I didn’t mention was the strong showing by Wingate, a Division II school in North Carolina, that had five players in the tournament. 

As Wingate had in a story on its website, two returning players in Shannon Kasprak and Maggie Mullen, played for the U23 team and were joined by three incoming freshmen in Sydney Moreland, Clare Sheedy and Maya Walker, who played U18. The five departed for Europe on July 6, played in the tournament July 11-15, then returned home July 17 following a day of sightseeing in Venice. Click here to read the story where the Wingate players recount their experiences.

And click here for more on Bring It and the Global Challenge.

Wingate players in Europe

AVCA HALL: The American Volleyball Coaches Association has added four members to its hall of fame, Susan Brewer, Shelton Collier, Fran Flory, and Rich Luenemann. Click here for the AVCA news release. Collier, by the way, is the coach of the aforementioned Wingate.

Flory was the longtime LSU coach, but there was that time in 2012 when she stepped in when we needed her for Volleyball Baton Rouge (my club from 2000-2019) and coached our 15s, which included her daughter, Lindsay. Lindsay, who later would play for her mom at LSU, is back for her fourth pro season in Germany.

In the photo below, front row, from left, is Sydney Davis, who went on to be a libero at Louisiana-Lafayette; Mary Camille Savoie; Melissa Currier; Sameera Mohamed, who played at Southern University; Kelly McDuff; and Sydney Johnston.

Back row, from left, Fran Flory; Katherine Young, who played at Radford and Louisiana-Lafayette; Hanna Rovira, who played at Louisiana-Lafayette; Madison Daigle, who had a stellar career for Texas State and is the only former VBR player to win an NCAA Tournament match; Lindsay Flory; Jariel Tureaud, who played at LSU; and assistant coach Rob Smith.

2012 Volleyball Baton Rouge 15s

ADIDAS NIL DEAL: Adidas signed 15 women athletes to name, image and likeness contracts, including volleyball players Nicklin Hames of Nebraska, Lauren Dooley of Kansas (formerly Florida) and Erin Moss of Georgia Tech. Click here for the Adidas news release.

MORE NCAA FEATURES: We’ve been churning them out and there are so many more coming your way in the next few weeks. Click here to see what you’ve missed, like stories on Iowa State, Nebraska, James Madison, Denver, and also UCLA and USC heading to the Big Ten:

BIG NEWS AHEAD: Look for a major announcement on this site on Sunday. It’s really big but if we told you anything more, well, you know.

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