By Ronald Hanaki
On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Kevin Rodgers was formally introduced as the new head coach of ESU’s Women’s Volleyball program at Koehler Fieldhouse.
Rodgers most recently served as the first assistant coach for Bucknell University’s Women’s Volleyball program last fall.
“Me being a head coach at the Division III level and being the first assistant at Division I has definitely set me up to succeed here,” said Rodgers.
“My goal is to lead by example. If I want them to work hard, I have to make sure that they see me working hard,” stated Rodgers.
“It’s going to be a process, and the process is starting now,” said Rodgers.
Josh Looney, ESU’s Director of Athletics, said, “He is the perfect guy to take us to the next level. We are excited to welcome him to the PSAC.”
“We had a strong pool of finalists. Many of them had head coaching experience, but Kevin really stood out,” stated Looney.
“He was well-prepared for the interview. He even scouted us and diagnosed some of our weaknesses and really sold his vision to us,” said Looney.
Rodgers said, “I did my homework and saw that five of 16 teams in the PSAC went on to the NCAA Division II Tournament. I don’t see why we can’t get to that level.”
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work on my part, and the girls that are already here are going to allow us to compete with those teams in the upper level of the conference,” said Rodgers.
Some of the student-athletes on the volleyball team were able to ask Rodgers questions during the search process.
“I looked at the team’s statistics from last year, and I gave a briefing on what I thought the team needed to do to succeed,” said Rodgers.
“Our hitting percentages were lower than the other teams in all of ESU’s losses. I want to increase our hitting percentage, so I brought along one of my drills,” said Rodgers.
“Our blocking errors were double compared to our opponents,” continued Rodgers. “I want to fix that. It’s a discipline issue.”
“ESU lost two matches in the fifth set by two points last season. So making sure we are not giving up any points is important, and making sure that other teams are earning points on us is important, too,” stated Rodgers.
Rodgers has a winning formula.
“If we can increase our hitting percentage a little and take away our blocking errors, we can win some of those close games,” said Rodgers.
In addition, Rodgers said that there were four things that he was going to really focus on to improve the team next season. These include the following: serving tougher, passing more precisely, being smart hitters and being scrappy on defense.
Rodgers also has a reputation for being a relentless recruiter.
“He is well-connected in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. He will help us with recruiting,” said Looney.
“He is also really knowledgeable about the game. It’s rare to find someone who is both knowledgeable about the game and a good recruiter,” said Looney.
Rodgers said, “I have done a lot of recruiting in northeast and southeast Pennsylvania. Lancaster has a lot of big tournaments, and I know a lot of alums who have coached in Pa. I am going to reach out to them and see if they can help me out.”
An outstanding student-athlete himself, Rodgers was a standout college volleyball player from 2006 to 2009 at New Jersey City University (NJCU). As a four-year starter and two-year team captain, he earned First Team and Second Team All-Conference honors at NJCU.
After earning his undergraduate marketing degree, Rodgers served as the assistant coach for NJCU’s men’s team for two years. He went on to become the head coach for the Men and Women’s Volleyball teams for the next two years.
He then spent four years coaching volleyball at Ramapo College and two years as the assistant coach for Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Women’s Volleyball team. He earned his master’s degree in sports administration at FDU.
In his first few days on the job, Rodgers has noticed and been impressed with the renovations going on at Koehler Fieldhouse.
“It’s getting a lot of people really excited about athletics at ESU. What Josh has done is really great and is going to give a lot of exposure to ESU Athletics,” said Rodgers.
“Our SACC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee) members will help us get into community events. I plan to run clinics in local area elementary and middle schools. Our SACC representatives from the team can help us out,” said Rodgers.
“All my past experiences have led me to ESU, and I have been welcomed as a Warrior. I am excited about this opportunity,” said Rodgers.
The volleyball team’s official offseason practices are scheduled to begin in early March.
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