Tuesday, February 11, 2014

NCAA | Coaches with Washington connections move up the coaching ladder

Former UW standout Stevie Mussie now a Penn State assistant; father of current UW player Bailey Tanner heads up Pepperdine

As Stevie Mussie remembers it, she almost threw up.

Penn State Assistant Stevie Mussie
It was December 9, 2006, and Mussie had just taken the court at Washington’s Hec Ed Pavilion. The opponent was Penn State. The winner would advance to the Final Four in Omaha.

The Nittany Lions featured future Olympian and future NCAA Player of the Year Megan Hodge, plus future US National Team members Nicole Fawcett, Alicia Glass and Olympian Christa Harmotto. To make it worse, Mussie, a senior outside hitter from Puyallup, had the flu.

“I remember walking out there thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, they’re so much bigger than me!’ says Mussie. “’They’re gonna eat me alive!’”

But Mussie’s worst fears went unrealized. On her side of the net was All-American and future pro beach player Christal Morrison Engle, plus future Olympians Courtney Thompson, Tama Miyashiro and Janine Sandell. Amid that all-star talent, Mussie was named Seattle Regional MVP, leading all Huskies with 20 kills as third-ranked UW defeated fifth-ranked PSU 3-1 (30-27, 30-24, 28-30, 30-26). As it turned out, it would be the last Penn State tournament loss in more than four seasons, as the Nittany Lions won the next four National Championships in a row.

Seven years later, Mussie still smiles when she recalls that match. “It couldn’t have been more fun,” she says. “Butterflies in your belly. Competing against the best. Your team plays awesome. An edge to the entire match.

“That’s what you play for, you know?”

One of the Penn State assistants at that 2006 match was Dennis Hohenshell, now the head coach at Virginia. After Penn State won yet another national title last December in Seattle, PSU coach Russ Rose called Hohenshell asking a favor: both of Rose’s assistants had abruptly left—Steve Aird took the head job at Maryland (the Terrapins will join the Big Ten next season) only a few days after Kaleena Davidson unexpectedly resigned. When Rose asked Hohenshell for names of promising assistants, he offered up the name of someone on his own staff: Stevie Mussie.

A few days later, Mussie was in State College, interviewing with Rose. Although he might have remembered Mussie’s 2006 performance, Rose talked about something else that happened that night.

“Russ remembered Courtney pointing at the referee and shaking her finger at him, absolutely berating him for a terrible call,” Mussie says. “That’s the one thing that’s always brought up. Which I love, ‘cause that’s Court.”

At Penn State, Mussie expects to work primarily with outside hitters and passers. Like most college coaches this time of year, she’s already on the road, recruiting. She says her boyfriend—an assistant coach for the powerhouse Virginia men’s soccer program—has been supportive.

“When the opportunity came, he said, ‘you can’t say no’,” Mussie says. “I’m lucky enough to have him understand my lifestyle and what I do for a living.”

It was a living she never anticipated when she and Christal Morrison were teammates at Puyallup High School, both playing club volleyball with Courtney Thompson. “We were all young and just enjoyed playing volleyball.” But, she says, all three owe much to their club coach, Dawn Colston.

“She’s a big reason why I am the way I am right now. She was the first female coach I ever had that was cool. And got you. And helped you be great. She’s helped us all get here.

“Poor Dawn, I was a pain in the butt then. She deserves a gold medal for putting up with me.”


Troy Tanner, the new head women’s coach at Pepperdine, has two Washington connections. He and Huskies head coach Jim McLaughlin are longtime friends—each was in the other’s wedding party—and Tanner’s daughter, Bailey, is on McLaughlin’s current UW team.

Troy Tanner introduced as new Pepperdine Head Coach
Bailey Tanner sat out her freshman year with a foot injury, so the question might be asked: will she follow her father to Malibu?

“No,” Troy tells Volleyblog Seattle. “Bailey loves Washington. She loves McLaughlin. She loves the girls. She’s happy there. She wants to play there. My goal as a father for my daughter is to make sure she’s happy and that she’s in good hands. So, no. We’re not having discussions about having her come to Pepperdine. She wants to be in Seattle.”

Tanner is the co-founder of T Street, a powerhouse San Clemente club team that produced Bailey and another current Husky, Cassie Strickland, plus 2014 Washington recruits Chrissy Jones and Tia Scrambry. Any chance the recruits will jump the UW ship?

“Absolutely not,” Tanner says. “Those girls are so fired up to get over there and be part of that program. So, none of that’s changed. I want those girls to go to UW and make that program great.”

Tanner was a member of the 1988 gold-medal winning US Olympic team. He was an All-American at Pepperdine, where he helped win an NCAA Championship for legendary coach Marv Dunphy, who was also his Olympic coach. One of Tanner’s first hires was Dunphy’s daughter, Alex, most recently an assistant at Miami for Keno Gandara (a former Washington assistant).

Tanner takes over for Nina Matthies, whose sand team—led by former Washington player Summer Ross—won the first AVCA National Sand Volleyball Championships in 2012 and was the 2013 runner up. Matthies will now concentrate solely on the Waves’ sand program.

Tanner says coaching at Pepperdine “has always been my professional goal.” But it does come with one major regret.

“I’m heartbroken that we won’t be able to come up and watch (Bailey) in person as much as we want. But we’ve got the Pac-12 Network. So, I’m still rooting for (the Huskies) except when they’re playing against us.”

  • In Kazan, Russia, Courtney Thompson’s professional team, Voléro Zürich, fell to powerhouse Dinamo Kazan, 3-1 (21-25, 25-16, 25-19, and 25-21). The loss ends Voléro’s impressive run in the 2013-14 European Champions League, and sends Dinamo into the Final Four. Thompson played well, but her team’s poor passing was once again the difference, as Thompson was forced to scramble during crucial stretches of the second and third sets. Voléro Zürich continues to lead in the Swiss League standings, and should enter the league playoffs as the top seed.
  • Stevie Mussie filled one of Penn State’s coaching vacancies; who will fill the other? One name being mentioned is former Penn State setter Salima Rockwell, currently Associate Head Coach at Texas.

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