DU’s head volleyball coach Tom Hogan stepped down on April 6th. As of this writing, the open head coaching position has not been filled and all the team assistant coaching positions remain open. While DU is expected to announce a hire this week, Denver has missed the transfer portal window and lost talent in the interim. Starting middle blocker Brianna Green transferred to TCU while setter Lauren Carter left for Northwestern along with setter Emma Ziegler to Creighton. Setter Lorrin Poulter is using her 5th year at Purdue. Maddie Hensen is going to Iowa. Future recruits de-committed as Canadian Olympian Lydia Johnson jumped to Michigan and Sydney Barrett switched to Dayton. Denver is left with no setters, a critical position, on the squad and only one middle, Cadi Boyer. The team has not finalized its non-conference schedule for 2023-24 and play begins in only eleven weeks.
In comparison, the University of South Dakota, a primary conference rival to Denver and defending Summit League champion, just extended their head coach, Leanne Williamson. They also hired their fourth full-time assistant coach to help with recruiting, game day analysis, and training. Once again, the issue is not Denver doing more than their conference rivals. Rather, it is failing to simply match Summit League teams’ resource levels – then, let the chips fall where they may. The Denver team could likely compete effectively in the Summit League with a head coach, two assistants, and an operations manager but time will tell how positions are filled going forward.
At last count, there were 334 DI volleyball teams in one of the fastest-growing collegiate sports. Competing effectively in this sport, not even dominating, requires a high-level commitment and commensurate staffing. If Denver hires a first-time head coach, it should have been done earlier to allow time to get their feet wet. It would appear most veteran coaches would prefer an earlier start date as well to use the player portal to plug holes, retain key players, and hire staff.
Due to a late start on building the 2023-24 schedule, expect DU to cobble together a non-conference schedule of 10 or so matches, most on the road. The team will have to rely on prior matches scheduled before Hogan’s departure and most open dates for other teams will require road matches for Denver volleyball this upcoming season.
The hard landing applies, literally and figuratively, to DU’s deluxe padded surface manufactured by Taraflex. Taraflex is a padded, durable court designed to protect players as they fall/dive to the floor during a volleyball match. This playing surface has been employed at Denver since a major donor purchased the mat several years ago. There have been rumblings that DU will retire the floor and have the team play on the wood surface this season. The claim is that Taraflex is difficult to store, set up for matches and stow (i.e. expensive, space). A DU volleyball player told LetsGoDU, “The Taraflex court is one of the best parts about our home matches. It’s great on athlete’s joints and diving and is something visiting teams remember about the caliber of DU facilities.“
In order to save time, space and money, if DU does not employ this surface this upcoming season, it will be yet another canary in the coal mine showing Denver’s reeling commitment to volleyball now and in the immediate future.
As always, we fully support Denver coaches and players, regardless of the outcome and hope this team can overcome the numerous obstacles in front of them. While it is fair to say that DU has a number of other athletic priorities, fans should hold low expectations for on-court success this fall and beyond for Denver women’s volleyball.