Names to Watch for Virginia Tech Volleyball Coaching Search

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomas1996 | Jan 25, 2020

Virginia Tech made a surprising announcement with their volleyball program as Jill Wilson stepped down as the head coach. Wilson became the first head coach hired by Whit Babcock to leave Virginia Tech not directly for a different job.

Wilson came to Virginia Tech after being the top assistant at LSU. Given Tech's struggles over the past three years, don't be surprised if Tech hires someone who is either actively a successful head coach in a smaller conference or someone who is a high profile assistant with past head coaching experience.

With that said, here are a few potential names to watch in the Virginia Tech Volleyball coaching search.

Cincinnati HC Molly Alvey

Connections matter and Molly Alvey was the volleyball head coach for Cincinnati for the total duration of Whit Babcock's time running the Bearcats' athletics program. Babcock may not have hired Alvey, but likely got to see a lot of what Alvey was building up with the Bearcats breaking through over the past few years under Alvey's tenure.

Alvey's Bearcats have earned at-large bids in three of the past 4 NCAA Tournaments including this past season as they made a run to the Round of 16 upsetting #6 overall seed Pittsburgh in the process.

Alvey also has plenty of experience beyond Cincinnati having spent two seasons helping turn around Houston in 2010 and 2011 after five years as an assistant in the SEC at Ole Miss. That diverse background should also give Alvey plenty of recruiting connections across the country that will be valuable.

She also is a proven recruiter having brought a top 30 recruiting class to Cincinnati a few years ago despite the Bearcats not being in one of the largest conferences in America.

If there is a frontrunner based purely on connections to Babcock, it would likely be Alvey who has done a great job at Cincinnati and is poised to be a major conference head coach. The question is whether both sides will think now is the time to make that jump and if Virginia Tech is the right fit?

James Madison HC Lauren Steinbrecher

Whit Babcock has gone up the road to JMU to poach Kenny Brooks to run the women's basketball program and may go back up to his school where he played college baseball for the Dukes' Lauren Steinbrecher.

Steinbrecher has been at JMU since 2010 leading the Dukes to winning seasons 8 times over the past decade including a pair of CAA titles in 2016 and 2017. She's also led the Dukes to five-straight 20+ wins and should have a greater feel for the region and how to win without having as many resources.

Steinbrecher also brings a diverse background that should appeal to Virginia Tech a lot having played in the ACC at Georgia Tech in college followed by briefly playing professionally in Spain. After that, Steinbracher spent multiple years as an assistant at Kentucky before taking the job at James Madison where she has continued to take her program higher and higher.

All of those ties to the ACC and the region plus her brief professional career and time as an assistant in the SEC make her a very good candidate for this job. Steinbrecher looks like a potential top candidate for the Hokies, and it wouldn't be surprising if Tech hired another coach from JMU to take over a Tech athletic program.

Kennesaw State HC Keith Schunzel

Virginia Tech has had success hiring from Kennesaw State having landed Pete D'Amour who has turned around Virginia Tech softball. Now, Whit Babcock may be tempted to poach another KSU head coach in Keith Schunzel.

When Schunzel arrived at Kennesaw in 2013, he arrived at a program that had never won more than 17 matches in a single season since its founding before the 2006 season. Over the past several years, Schunzel has taken Kennesaw to a higher level with the program winning 18+ games in every season starting in 2015.

More importantly, Schunzel has steadily built Kennesaw State into a stronger program winning the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship in 2017 and 2019 to lead the Owls to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.

It can be a big jump from the Atlantic Sun to the ACC, but D'Amour's success may make that an easier jump for Whit Babcock to make in hiring an A-Sun assistant. Additionally, Schunzel has high level assistant experience in the SEC and Big 10, similar to how D'Amour had been a long-time assistant at Missouri before being the head coach at Kennesaw State.

Schunzel may not be a name at the top of the expected candidate list, but definitely could be a name to watch at a place where Babcock has found a very good head coach previously.

Texas Associate HC Tonya Johnson

Tonya Johnson is the lone coach on this list who isn't currently a head coach, but she has head coaching experience in the ACC at Georgia Tech with an 85-72 record from 2009-2013. Johnson also has something that no other coach has on this list, international coach experience having been the co-head coach for 2012 Volleyball National A2 team.

Johnson has been the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Texas since 2014 with the Longhorns reaching the NCAA semifinals in 2014, finals in 2015 and 2016, quarterfinals in 2017 and 2018, and earning the #2 overall seed this past season.

Texas has been one of the stronger collegiate programs for years now with Johnson helping to maintain that standard with the Longhorns. Combine with positive experience as a head coach at Georgia Tech and time to learn from mistakes in Atlanta, and Johnson definitely has the potential to be a great hire for the Hokies.

The biggest question with Johnson may be whether she wants to jump at Virginia Tech or wait for an opportunity closer to her coaching and collegiate athlete roots in the Deep South.