When newly hired volleyball coach Marci Sanders took inventory of her new program at UTD during her first week on the job, it was a fairly simple task.
A quick look in the storage closets of the UTD Activity Center revealed about 20 volleyballs and a few nets. Unfortunately for Sanders, there weren’t any readily identifiable players lurking in there as well.
But, Sanders, who comes to UTD from a four-year stint as an assistant coach at Angelo State University, is confident and excited that in the coming weeks she’ll be stocking that closet with enough equipment – and players – to serve UTD’s launch into intercollegiate volleyball by September 2004.
“I am very excited about the opportunity of coming in to start a program on the ground level,” said the 27-year-old Amarillo native, who assumed her new position on Jan. 12. “I’ve learned a lot the last few years as a player and as a coach, and am convinced we can build a successful program at UT-Dallas. I’m very much looking forward to the challenge.”
Sanders is not far removed from the competitive volleyball arena herself. A three-time all-district performer at Amarillo’s Palo Duro High School, she began her collegiate career in 1995 at College of the Southwest in Hobbs, N.M, where she was the team MVP after two seasons. Upon transferring to Angelo State in 1997, the defensive specialist set numerous ASU, Lone Star Conference and NCAA Division II records. Her career average of 5.52 digs per game is still an NCAA Division II record.
After graduating summa cum laude in 1999 from ASU with a degree in kinesiology, Sanders entered graduate school there and assumed the graduate assistant duties in the volleyball program. One year later, she was named ASU’s full-time assistant coach – the position she held before coming to UTD. In 2001, she earned her master’s degree in kinesiology and taught courses in the subject as a lecturer at ASU.
Coming from the plains of West Texas where volleyball players can be harder to come by, Sanders is looking forward to picking through the Metroplex’s bumper crop of volleyball talent to fill her fledgling program.
“The location (of UTD) was a huge attraction of this position,” Sanders said. “There are so many (volleyball) clubs and quality athletes in this area, that it should be a successful position.”
Sanders – herself an Academic All-American at ASU – also stressed the high academic standards of the university as a major recruiting tool.
“I like the fact that the academic standards are so high because you’ll have athletes that want to be here and want to be playing instead of just being here for the scholarship,” she said. NCAA Division III rules prohibit the awarding of athletic scholarships.
Along with lining out the schedule that UTD will play this fall, Sanders is drawing up her game plan for recruiting this spring. She says her first step will be to find out what talent is available on campus right now.
“I know that there are athletes here who would be interested, so one of the first things I’ll try to do is hold a tryout here,” Sanders said. “I’m hoping anyone that is interested will get in touch with me.”
Beyond the open campus tryouts, Sanders plans to network with the numerous coaches and club contacts she has built through coaching to round out her roster.
The new coach hopes her excitement for developing UTD’s newest athletic program rubs off on the entire university community.
“It’s a very fast-paced and dynamic game. You have action every single rally, it’s not one of those sports where you have to wait awhile,” she said. “One of the things I’d like to do is get the faculty and student body more involved in sports. We plan on having a lot of promotional activities between the games and getting people involved.”