Cal athletic director Michael Williams announced Wednesday that Meagan Schmitt will take over as the head coach of the campus’s beach volleyball team.
Schmitt, who previously served as the team’s associate head coach, will take over for Rich Feller. He will remain the school’s indoor volleyball coach and has been promoted to Cal’s director of volleyball. Feller will remain involved with the beach program as well, according to Cal Athletics.
Feller appointed Schmitt to the associate head coach position May 2014. She was a volleyball player for the Bears from 2007-10 and stood out as one of the team’s top players during the program’s only two NCAA Final Four appearances in history. She set a solid basis for her future coaching career by proving that she could excel academically, proven by her status as a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic selection. Schmitt’s status as an excellent beach volleyball player — the California Beach Volleyball Association awarded her an AAA rating — likely played a role in her quick move to the head coaching position as well.
Schmitt got her coaching career off to an early start, as she started working as a volunteer assistant coach for Loyola Marymount University’s indoor program, where she quickly moved up the ranks. She eventually became the sand volleyball team’s top assistant coach in her second year with the Lions. Schmitt’s last two seasons with the school were spent with her taking on a bigger role, as she was also appointed as a full-time assistant coach in the school’s indoor program.
Cal, which managed to get Schmitt back to UC Berkeley last year, will hope Schmitt can elevate the beach volleyball team into a top program after a weak 2015 season in which the team went 7-14. The team, which was known as the sand volleyball team until the NCAA changed its name this year, compiled only seven wins, compared to its 14 losses.
The sport is a new one both at Cal and in the realm of college sports in general. Next season will be beach volleyball’s third at UC Berkeley and only its second in which the team will use beach-specific players, after the Bears used players from the indoor team in 2014. The sport finally gained NCAA recognition in January and Pac-12 sponsorship last month, and both of these will begin to take effect next season.
Even this early in the sport’s history at UC Berkeley, the Bears can walk away from the 2015 season with at least one badge of honor: They set a school record for highest cumulative GPA by a team in school history. Given the team’s exceptional academic record, Schmitt will not have a lot of work to do at that end of her job. While it is important to maintain the Bears’ excellence there, this team needs more improvement on the field (or on the sand).
Fuller, who will be heading into his 17th year as head coach of the indoor team, is a very good coach, but putting in someone such as Schmitt, who can focus on the beach team, can be a step in the right direction for the team’s on-the-field performance. Her ascension to the top spot, along with the program’s maturation, may help propel the beach team to a winning level.