Wittenberg head coach Paco Labrador has won with more regularity than almost any other active NCAA coach. His career winning percentage of .862 in 14 seasons at the helm of the Tigers ranks first in all of NCAA Division III and second across all divisions. Overall, his sparkling career record stands at 428-68 following the 2016 season.
Thirty-seven of those wins have come in NCAA Division III Tournament play, including a dominating run to the 2011 national championship. In 2015, the team amassed more wins in the tournament and finished national runner-up. Labrador’s postseason record in 14 straight trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament is 37-13 and includes 11 appearances in regional championship matches, three consecutive trips to the national semifinals between 2005 and 2007 and the university’s first NCAA title in any sport in 34 years in 2011, which was the first NCAA women’s volleyball title for any Ohio school.
In 2007, Wittenberg put together an undefeated regular season, going 32-0, to set new standards for North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) programs. The momentum continued into the postseason as the Tigers picked up two more conference tournament wins and four NCAA Division III Tournament wins before losing to the eventual national champion Washington University in the national semifinals. During the unbeaten streak, Wittenberg won 17 consecutive matches without dropping a single game and posted a consecutive games streak of 54 in a row, which ranks No. 2 in NCAA Division III history.
While the 2011 regular season didn’t measure up to the 2007 standards, the Tigers heated up at just the right time, ripping off six NCAA Division III Tournament victories (against five nationally ranked opponents) while dropping just a single set. After the season, Labrador was named American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Coach of the Year, a piece of hardware that now sits alongside Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year awards earned in 2004 and 2007 and NCAC Coach of the Year awards earned in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Under Labrador’s guidance, 16 Tiger student-athletes have garnered All-America accolades, including one of the most highly decorated athletes in Wittenberg history, Sarah Yuskewich, who holds the Division III record for assists in a season and was a three-time first-team All-America honoree.
The Tigers have dominated the NCAC under Labrador’s training. The Red and White have amassed a phenomenal 155-2 record in conference play under Labrador and have hoisted 13 regular season championship trophies and 13 conference tournament trophies. In addition, Wittenberg has won six NCAA Division III Tournament Regional crowns during that time.
Wittenberg has not only excelled on the court but also in the classroom under Labrador’s guidance. The Tigers have earned the AVCA Team Academic Award, given to teams that cumulatively average a 3.3 grade point average or higher, 11 times since Labrador took the position in 2003. Additionally, eight Wittenberg players have earned CoSIDA Academic All-District awards, with Emily Bell, Kara Seidenstricker and Kimmie Dyer going on to claim Academic All-America honors (Bell: second-team in 2007; Dyer: third-team in 2011; Seidenstricker: third-team in 2013).
Under Labrador’s guidance, Kara Seidenstricker, class of 2016, 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.
The 2012 NCAA Division III Freshman of the Year, she is a three-time recipient of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Player of the Year Award. She helped lead the Tigers to the 2015 NCAA Division III National Championship match with an average of 3.03 kills per set. An outside hitter for Wittenberg, she recorded 3.74 digs per set with a .942 service reception percentage this season.
The Tigers have even found success internationally during Labrador’s career. In the summers of 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013, the Wittenberg volleyball team competed in Spain. Labrador and his father, Jose, led the team on educational and cultural tours in historic towns and cities on off-days between competition dates against semi-pro and professional teams. Not surprisingly, each season following a team trip to Spain, the Tigers found tremendous levels of success. The 2004 season resulted in a then program-best 35-3 overall record, with Labrador earning his first NCAA Division III Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year honors. Those achievements were topped in 2007 with an NCAA final four appearance and in 2010 and 2013, the Tigers were stopped only by No. 1-ranked Calvin, which went on to win the national title each year.
The community has benefited from the Tiger coach during the annual Wittenberg Fall Classic, which Labrador introduced in 2005. That year, Labrador organized a clothing drive in conjunction with the tournament in which participating teams and fans made donations to Hurricane Katrina victims. In 2007, the event focused on breast cancer awareness as Labrador provided pink warm-up shirts for all the teams and contributed profits from the tournament to the American Cancer Society.
Labrador graduated from Hiram College, a member of the NCAC along with Wittenberg, in 1995 with degrees in psychology and exercise and sport science. He also holds a master of science from Miami University in sport studies, which he earned in 1997. He came to Wittenberg after four years as an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio) University, where he was active in all phases of the program, including scouting and game preparation, recruiting, skill development and summer camps.
Labrador and his wife Jill, a Title 1 Intervention Coach, reside in Yellow Springs with their daughters, Olivia and Isabel.