Coaching staffs for NCAA volleyball semifinalists have different approaches

NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship
National semifinals
Texas (26-1) vs. San Diego (31-1), 7 p.m.

Pittsburgh (31-3) vs. Louisville (30-2), 30 minutes after

OMAHA, Nebraska — The four coaching staffs in Thursday’s NCAA national semifinals obviously have the same goals.

But all have different approaches, and, not surprisingly, in the cases of Texas and San Diego, the biggest differences are size and budget.

“We talk about the sport growing so much. I’m basically running an enterprise now,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I’ve got 80 people underneath me and there’s a ton of work that needs to be done. My athletic department allowed me to hire some phenomenal coaches.”

San Diego coach Jen Petrie? 

Well, her school has an enrollment of just more than 8,000, about 43,000 less than that of rich and mighty Texas, so … 

“There’s three of us,” Petrie said. “We have to be the coordinators of everything.”


“My staff is tremendous in the fact we can be hands-on in a lot of different areas,” Petrie continued. “And we have to wear a lot of different hats, because it’s the three of us. 

“That’s it. 

“There’s no other technical coordinator. There’s no other DOVO. So when I say we rotate hats, we do a lot of things. And we extract a lot from each other.”

No matter the division of labor, this is a gathering in which all four teams obviously have tremendous coaching staffs.

David Hunt talks with the Texas team during Wednesday’s NCAA practice/Lee Feinswog photo

Elliott’s right-hand men are former USA Olympian Erik Sullivan, who has been with him for 12 years, which includes the last time Texas won it all in 2012, and first-year assistant David Hunt. Hunt is the former men’s coach at Pepperdine, whose resume includes being an assistant on the 2016 USA women’s team that won Olympic bronze.

“When I worked with (football coach) Pete Carroll at USC, I got to know him pretty well and watched a lot of his practices,” Elliott said. “And when I started having really good assistant coaches that really understood what we were doing, I made them coordinators.

“Eric is our defensive coordinator. David is our offensive coordinator. And we meet all week and talk about the things we do. And they are in charge of those areas. And they can focus on those areas. I’m kind of hovering above them, helping manage it and helping any way I can. But we work as a team together.

“Yes, I’m the head coach, but I give them a lot of flexibility to be who they are because they’re great at what they do, and we all work really well together.

“The most important thing I want to make sure is that our players see that, the confidence I have in our coaches and making sure that they’re confident going into this and they feel that way with our coaches.”

San Diego’s staff includes Alfred Reft and Jimmy Lundgren.

Reft, who goes by Alfee, is in his third year. The former pro player previously coached at Illinois and Minnesota and has been in the USA gym, both as a coach and as national-team libero. Lundgren is in his fifth year and his resume includes being a volunteer at Minnesota and also spending time in the USA gym.

San Diego coaches Jimmy Lundgren, left, and Alfee Reft at practice Wednesday/Andy Wenstrand photo

“Obviously Alfee does a tremendous job training a lot of our positions and he’ll work with setters specifically, will get in the gym and do a lot of work with Gabby (Blossom) and our other setters,” Petrie said. 

“But after that, you know, we will break up and he and I will do a lot of the offensive work together. I think blocking would be a big part for him. But when we go into practice, we’ll split up positions and it will be a rotation. 

“Sometimes we’ll have part of the staff with offense and middles. And sometimes Jimmy will be off with middle blockers working on footwork.”

Tenth-year Pitt coach Dan Fisher’s staff includes Kellen Petrone and Lindsey Behonick. 

Petrone, who went to Duquesne in Pittsburgh, is in his ninth season. He started as the director of operations after being an assistant at his alma mater, Robert Morris and UNC Asheville.

Pitt assistant Lindsey Behonick/Andy Wenstrand

Behonick is also in her ninth season. She coached Concordia, her alma mater, to the 2012 NAIA national title.

“Well, everyone on my staff is allowed to coach everyone,” Fisher said. “I’ll say that. 

“I think my voice is probably the loudest in the gym. But Coach Kellen is our offensive coordinator. And Coach Lindsey is our defensive coordinator. Kamalani (Akeo), my director of ops, is kind of the statistician. And our volunteer, Michael Fisher, who was a player at Saint Francis a year ago, he’s pretty heavy in serve and pass.”

Dani Busboom Kelly talks with assistants Dan Meske, left, and Todd Chamberlain at practice Wednesday/Andy Wenstrand photo

Louisville’s Dani Busboom Kelly’s staff includes Dan Meske and Todd Chamberlain. 

Meske, the former head coach at Augustana, and, like Busboom Kelly a former Nebraska assistant, is in his sixth year. He played at Ohio State.

Chamberlain was a long-time assistant at Kansas — which played in the national semifinals in this same CHI Center in 2015 — before joining the Louisville staff in 2018. Chamberlain, who is from Louisville, played at Ball State.

“I train the setters and run the offense,” Busboom Kelly said. “And Dan trains the middles and he runs the defense. Todd trains the outsides and then he calls the serving zones and breaks down their servers and our servers and where we want to serve.

“And our volunteer, Parker Mikesch, he spends time with the liberos. That’s really how we break it down from a staff standpoint. And game prep, the same things. I’ll prep what do we want to do offensively. Dan will prep defense and Todd will prep serving.”

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