Saint Mary’s hires head coach with local ties
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, August 21, 2015
Saint Mary’s announced South Bend native Denise Van De Walle as its new volleyball head coach August 7, effective for the 2015 season.
“Growing up in South Bend, I’ve been familiar with Saint Mary’s since high school,” Van De Walle said in a Saint Mary’s press release. “It has a wonderful reputation of excellence. I’m excited to be a part of it and very excited to be the Belles’ new head volleyball coach.”
Van De Walle, who most recently comes from a three-year stint as a Notre Dame volunteer assistant coach, was a head coach at Bowling Green from 1983 through 2011, where in her 29 years at the helm, the Falcons won three Mid-American Conference championships, posting a 30-win campaign in 1992. She was named MAC Coach of the Year on four separate occasions, and her teams at Bowling Green won 527 matches.
As a player, Van De Walle was a four-year letter-winner at Ball State, where she was part of a team that set the Cardinals program record for wins in a season. She stayed in Muncie, Indiana, to start her coaching career, winning the 1977 state championship with Northside High School, before returning to Ball State as an assistant coach. A stint as an assistant at Cal Poly preceded her move to Bowling Green as head coach.
Also, Van De Walle was on the USA Volleyball Board of Directors from 1998 to 2003 and served as the American Volleyball Coaches Association president in 2001 during a seven-year stint on that organization’s Board of Directors.
In addition to her work in collegiate volleyball, Van De Walle was an assistant coach on the 2004 and 2008 U.S. women’s paralympic sitting volleyball teams, winning bronze in Athens and silver in Beijing.
Van De Walle takes over a Belles squad that finished 15-13 last season under Toni Elyea, narrowly missing out on a spot in the MIAA tournament through a tiebreaker after posting an 8-8 record in the conference. On the heels of the team’s winningest year during her six-year stint as Belles head coach, Elyea left Saint Mary’s in July to take the same position at Belmont Abbey, a Division II college in Belmont, North Carolina.
In her first year at the helm, Van De Walle will have to cope with the loss of six seniors from last year’s squad, including All-MIAA second team outside hitter Kati Schneider. Senior outside hitter Katie Hecklinski, who was third on the team with 256 kills last year, returns, as well as junior Clare McMillan, who was the Belles’ assist leader last season with 7.72 per game.
Saint Mary’s will open up its 2015-16 slate with a home contest against Manchester on Sept. 1 before traveling to Elmhurst, Illinois, for the Elmhurst Tournament on Sept. 4 and 5. The conference slate will begin for the Belles on Sept. 9, when they host Calvin in the first of 16 conference matchups during the two-month regular season.