Head coach Marci Sanders, asst. coach Zach Villarreal help make program history

7 months ago
Summer Lebel
Mercury Staff

The UTD volleyball team won its 300th game in school history under the guidance of the same duo that coached the program to its first victory 12 years ago.

Head coach Marci Sanders and assistant coach Zach Villarreal have been with the program since its inception in 2004. During their tenure, the team has won three championships and qualified for the ASC tournament every year.


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Sanders said the atmosphere surrounding the team is one of the factors contributing to its success.

“We decided a long time ago that we would create a winning culture and the girls bought into that,” Sanders said. “We’re really establishing that championship culture and not expecting anything less than that.”

Effective recruiting is important to the program’s success, so athletes who are coachable and willing to do what’s required of them are sought out.

“Zach and I make sure we go after characters that have character,” Sanders said. “You want kids that are fun and can have a good time, but at the same time, they’re making good decisions off the court and are good quality, hard-working personalities.”

Sanders prefers the athletes get attention for the program’s success, rather than her own coaching.

“If it weren’t for the kids doing the things that we ask them to do as coaches, we wouldn’t have the success that we have,” Sanders said. “I definitely try to put everything back on the kids and the decisions that they’re making and the work that they’re putting in.”

Instead of dwelling on the program’s 300th win, the team is focused on taking the rest of the season one game at a time, including their 13th consecutive appearance in the ASC Tournament.

“Of course they’re excited about the success, but I think we’ve got the big picture in mind and that’s just another accolade along the way that they weren’t aware of until it happened,” Sanders said.

Abbie Barth, a speech pathology senior who has been on the UTD volleyball team since 2012, said they didn’t know about the potential of the 300th win before the game, but they were excited to congratulate Sanders when they found out after the game.

“We haven’t been a part of it from the beginning, but Marci has, so for her to accomplish that, it was really cool for us to help her get there,” Barth said. “Just to be a small part of her success is pretty sweet.”

She said the team works well with Sanders because they’re all responsive to her and fit together well.

“I think our personalities get along pretty well,” Barth said. “We’re very focused and intense at the same time. We know how to have a good time. At the end of the day, it’s just a game and games are supposed to be fun. I think we can respect the game, but also play with some serious intensity.”

Barth enjoys playing for Sanders because she’s a smart coach when it comes to the game.

“I don’t think I’d want to play for anyone else,” Barth said. “She is so overqualified for what she’s doing. There’s a reason she’s so successful.”

Bill Petitt, UTD’s athletic director, said the consistency and commitment that Sanders and Villarreal have put into building the program has contributed to its success.

“I think 300 is a pretty big milestone considering how fast we were able to reach that,” Petitt said. “It means the program has had a lot of success and consistently been successful, so that’s a credit to Marci and Zach. They’re the only coaches the program has ever had, so it’s really a program that they’ve built.”