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ISU hires new volleyball coach
Illinois State Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger, left, shakes hands with new women's volleyball coach Melissa Myers, right, after introducing at the Kaufman Football bulding in Normal on Friday (May 2, 2008). (Pantagraph/B Mosher)

NORMAL - Melissa Myers had a great gig at California University of Pennsylvania. She had turned it into one in six years as the Division II school's head volleyball coach, going from 16 victories her first year to three straight 30-win seasons. | Video

She was in no hurry to leave, but in the end, she did.

Why?

"I saw an amazing opportunity at Illinois State," said Myers, who was introduced Friday as ISU's new head volleyball coach. "I was drawn to Illinois State because of the history and tradition of this program.

"Another reason is the solid team returning. It is a team that has proven it can win. It's much easier to take a new job when you know you have a great team here already."

Myers inherits 10 letter winners from a 21-12 team which placed second in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and earned an at-large NCAA Tournament bid under Sharon Dingman.

Dingman resigned on March 21 after eight seasons to become head coach at Iowa.

Myers said the returning talent was "a huge factor" in her decision "because I left a championship team."

"I just said that volleyball is volleyball," Myers said at an afternoon news conference. "They might be playing at a little higher altitude (in Division I), but the game, the strategies, the techniques, it's really very similar.

"To build a championship team is the same whether you're at the Division III level or Division I level."

The 32-year-old Myers guided California to a 35-4 record last season, including a 10-0 mark in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. The Vulcans advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament.

California went 28-7, 33-3, 30-7 and 35-4 the past four years under Myers, who at 161-49 was the winningest coach in school history.

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"She took a program from scratch and each year built it into continued success," ISU athletic director Sheahon Zenger said. "She built a winner and she built a champion.

"We were looking for a team player with a strong, competitive style. We were looking for someone with a team intellect, a good coaching mind and who could lead young women while at the same time put her best foot forward in the community. When we met with Melissa, we knew we had that person."

Myers, a Hastings, Pa., native, met with the ISU players earlier Friday. Senior outside hitter M.C. Richmond, a first-team all-Missouri Valley choice last year, said the new coach "made a really good first impression."

"She's built a program and kept getting it better and better. That really impressed me and made me feel good about the fact she's coming here," Richmond said.

"Me and Erin (Lindsey) and Amy (Olson), being seniors we're kind of in a sense of urgency. We have one more year and we hope it's really good. We're expecting a lot out of coach Myers, but I definitely believe she'll bring a lot to this program."

Myers said her coaching style is to create a culture which "cultivates thinkers" and emphasizes teamwork. It was music to the ears of Lindsey, who was ISU's team MVP last year.

"We have great team chemistry. To have a coach who's going to stress that even more is going to be great," Lindsey said. "I'm not setting my standards any lower at all. If anything I'm setting them higher.

"Obviously, making the NCAA Tournament again is a goal, and hopefully we can get a Missouri Valley championship this year."

Myers was a four-year letter winner in volleyball and track at Juniata College. She earned All-America honors in both sports and was named Middle Atlantic Conference volleyball player of the year in 1997.

She was an assistant coach at Lock Haven and Juniata prior to becoming a head coach.

"I wouldn't be leaving my current team or university if I didn't believe in and have confidence in the support and leadership at this university," Myers said. "Like me, this is a place which really values the growth and development of student athletes, academically and athletically."

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