SPRINGFIELD, Ohio—After 15 years at the helm of Wittenberg women's volleyball, Paco Labrador was named the head women's volleyball coach at the United States Naval Academy on May 16.
Labrador guided Wittenberg to the 2011 NCAA National Championship, two runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017, and a career record of 455-71 in 15 seasons in Springfield. His career winning percentage of 86.5 ranks second among active coaches across all NCAA divisions, and third overall in college volleyball history.
Wittenberg women's volleyball has won at least 25 matches in 14 of Labrador's 15 seasons, including seven seasons with 30 wins. The Tigers' dominated the North Coast Athletic Conference under Labrador's guidance, compiling an overall record of 162-2 (98.8%) in regular season play, and an astonishing 35-1 (97.2%) mark in NCAC tournament play, including 14 tournament titles. The Tigers also appeared in 15 NCAA Tournaments, were ranked among the top-10 teams in the final national rankings 13 times, and attained a ranking of no lower than third on six separate occasions.
"It is impossible to put into words all that Paco has meant to Wittenberg University. He has truly been one of the most special coaches I have ever met and have had an opportunity to work alongside," said Director of Athletics and Recreation Dr. Gary Williams.
"Our volleyball program, campus community, and athletic department all have felt the impact of Paco's leadership and influence and he has made the lives of so many of us better both on and off the court. I am so happy for him, Jill, and their daughters on earning this tremendous opportunity and wish them well."
Labrador was tabbed as the 2011 American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III National Coach of the Year, received a pair of AVCA Great Lakes Region Division III Coach of the Year accolades, and was an eight-time recipient of the NCAC Coach of the Year award.
"Thank you to President Mike Frandsen, Athletic Director Gary Williams, and the entire Wittenberg University community. 15 years ago Wittenberg gave me an opportunity to fulfill my dream of being a head coach. The level of support and love I received, from the moment I stepped on campus, is truly what makes Wittenberg a special place. Thank you to all the Tiger Volleyball Alumnae. They are the backbone of this program, always willing to help with a recruit, challenge the team during the Alumnae match, contribute to our fundraisers, or lose their voice cheering from the stands," said Labrador.
"I can't say enough about the current team and the committed culture and leadership they have shown. I teach my daughters to 'always leave a place a little better than how you found it.' It's very hard to leave a place like Witt but reassuring to know that from top to bottom, the program is as healthy as it is has ever been."
His players earned 32 All-America awards, 38 all-region honors, 10 NCAC Player of the Year nods, 61 all-conference awards, one NCAA Elite 90 Award, and five College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American accolades.
Under Labrador's guidance, Kara Seidenstricker ('16), was named to the 2015 CoSIDA Academic All-America Division III volleyball first team. The designation makes her the first three-time Academic All-America honoree in Wittenberg history.
Seidenstricker was a first-team selection in 2014 and third-team pick in 2013. A 2015 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) first-team All-American selection, Seidenstricker is also a four-time AVCA All-American, and the only Wittenberg player to ever do so in all four years of her collegiate career, all under Labrador's guidance. She is also the first Wittenberg female athlete to play professionally in their sport, after signing a 10-month contract with Nawaro in southern Germany.
In the fall of 2016, Labrador was inducted into Miami of Ohio's Cradle of Coaches. Labrador joined the ranks of other notable coaches with Miami roots, including Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and John Harbaugh. The Cradle of Coaches was started in 2002, recognizing more than 100 active Miami graduates who hold coaching and administrative positions within professional and collegiate levels across the nation.
Labrador graduated from Hiram College in 1995 with degrees in psychology and exercise & sport science. He also holds a master of science degree from Miami University in sport studies, which he earned in 1997. He came to Wittenberg in 2003 after four years as an assistant coach at Miami of Ohio.
Labrador replaces legendary volleyball coach Larry Bock who announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign at Navy. Bock arrived at Navy having compiled an overall record of 1,352-283-4 (82.6%) in 40 seasons as a collegiate volleyball head coach. That tally included a mark of 1,252-192 (86.7%) in 34 seasons as the head coach of the women's program at fellow NCAA Division III institution Juniata and a mark of 100-91-4 (52.3%) in six years as the head coach of the Juniata men's team. Bock holds NCAA records for the most career wins as a women's head coach (1,348) and as a collegiate volleyball coach (1,448).
Evelyn Carus, the current assistant coach for the Tigers' women's program, has been named the interim head coach for the 2018 campaign. Carus joined the coaching staff in 2016 after spending a year as an assistant coach at Alma College.
"I want to thank President Michael Frandsen and Athletic Director Gary Williams for the opportunity to transition into this role. I am extremely grateful for Paco Labrador's mentorship during our years together and for the strong foundation of culture and success that he built for Wittenberg Volleyball. I look forward to continuing the legacy of this program and am confident that with the support from the University, community, and alumni we will continue to excel at developing mature young women on and off the court," said Carus.
Carus was a four-year letter winner as a libero at Otterbein University, where she ranks in the top-10 for digs in a career, season and match. Playing for former Tiger All-American and current Otterbein Head Coach Monica McDonald, Carus played a key role in the Cardinals' 2012 Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament championship. Otterbein advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament three times during her collegiate career.
"I am thankful to Evelyn for accepting our offer to serve as the interim head coach and excited to see what she and our team will accomplish this fall," said Williams.
In addition to her season at Alma, Carus' coaching experience includes Junior Olympic assistant coach in the winter of 2010-11 and Junior Olympic head coach in the winter of 2011-12 then again from 2012-15.
"During the first conversation I had with Evelyn, she made it clear to me that she wanted to be a head coach. Everyday since that meeting, Evelyn has challenged herself to learn and develop her skills. She embraces the growth mindset and has been a role model for the team. She is a tireless recruiter and her attention to detail is second to none. I'm sure a day will come next fall when I will turn around in my office chair with a question for Evelyn and realize she isn't sitting in the desk next to mine. I will miss her support and insight but I couldn't be happier for her and the volleyball program as she steps into the role she has worked so hard to prepare for," said Labrador.
Wittenberg women's volleyball finished 27-3 in 2017, including a trip to the National Championship match for the third time in seven seasons. The Tigers finished #2 in the country in the final AVCA Rankings.