Rhett Umphress

The Ball State University women's volleyball team's coaching search is over.

Steve Shondell was introduced Tuesday as the sixth head coach in school history. He comes to Ball State following a 34-year tenure as the girls volleyball coach at Burris Laboratory School.

"There's no other school I'd rather coach at than Ball State," Shondell said. "Ball State's always been my real love. It's been part of my life ever since I was 5 years old."

Shondell's father, Don, founded the men's volleyball program at Ball State. Steve played for his father in the 1970s, helping the Cardinals to three Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association titles. He also was a volunteer assistant for Don Shondell in the 1990s and is a member of the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame.

Shondell was offered and accepted the position following an interview that took place last week.

"Initially, I didn't think that I would be able to [come to Ball State], because I just could not see myself ever leaving Burris," Shondell said, "but the more I thought about it, it just seemed like the timing was right. I knew if I was ever going to go into collegiate coaching, this had to be it."

The Cardinals failed to meet expectations under Dave Boos, who coached them for the last three years compiling a 32-62 record. Boos recently took a job as assistant coach at the University of Florida, opening the door for Shondell.

Shondell admitted that Ball State has seen some down times recently, but he is ready to move forward with the team.

"The team has struggled, from a win-loss standpoint, the last four years. The opportunity to come in and start really turning the program around is a great opportunity for me."

He said he has met with the team twice: once during last week's interview and again today.
"I think they'd like to be the team that turns this program around," he said. "I believe they will."

Senior Alyssa Rio said she was happy that Shondell was hired.

"I think his love of the game will help inspire us to play with our love of the game," she said. "I think it's going to be a nice, new start for all of us."

Rio said she wished she had more than just her senior year to play under Shondell's tutelage.

"I think a lot of us feel we wish we had more years to see where Steve's going to take the program," she said.

Shondell said ball control is going to be key in rebuilding the program. In 2009, Ball State had a total of 1,080 errors among all facets of the game.

"We have to be able to run a quicker offense than we've been running," he said.

Senior Karin Caudill also noted the faster pace at which Ball State will play. She added that the style of play will also be more fundamentals-based.

Rio said one way the team will speed up play is through the use of lower passes to the setter, something the back row players will have to get used to quickly.

Health will also be important. Shondell said the team has had a pattern of injuries hampering the team. One of Shondell's biggest concerns for 2010 is being able to field a team that can stay injury-free.

"This year, we have a lot of juniors and seniors that really need to be on the floor," he said.
One junior who has returned to the team is Brittany McGinnis. During the off-season,

McGinnis announced she would leave the program, but Shondell said she has since returned to the volleyball team.

"That's definitely a positive, that you've got your two-year experienced setter back on the team," Shondell said.

Christie Waters, who also left the team in the off-season, is a Burris graduate. Shondell said time will tell if she wants to come back to the team.

"She'll have to make that decision," he said. "I'll always welcome her back. She's a great kid."

He said he would like to see a quick turnaround but acknowledged that it will take time, especially as he institutes a new system at Ball State.

While Shondell was at Burris, the Owls won 21 state titles, including a current streak of 13 straight and a 40-0 record in 2009. He is a 2007 American Volleyball Association Hall of Fame inductee and has been the National High School Coach of the Year twice in the last three years.

Shondell hasn't spoken with his Burris players yet, but he did send a personal note to each of them Tuesday once he knew he would be coming to Ball State.

"It's hard for me to talk to them without turning into a waterfall," he said.

Shondell will have to make some adjustments to the college game. The biggest difference between high school and college volleyball, Shondell said, is the amount of videotaping and film study that goes into each opponent, as well as recruiting.

"So much of your success is going to depend on the players you recruit," he said.

From a recruiting standpoint, Shondell will have a logical connection to Burris for future recruits. Shondell said he plans to start his recruiting efforts from within Muncie, then branch outward.

Athletics director Tom Collins is happy to have the two-time All-MIVA player return to the Cardinals.

"We are very excited to bring Steve Shondell back into the Ball State family," Collins said in a press release. "He is one of the game's top strategists and one of the most well-known and respected coaches in the sport."

Work begins today with the first Ball State practice under the new management. Even though Ball State has only four-and-a-half months until its first game, Shondell is setting the bar high for his new team.

"I'm hoping that Ball State never has another losing season," he said.