Serving it Up
A quick look at the 2011 volleyball season with UNC Asheville’s new head coach
This season, there are more than a few familiar names on the women’s volleyball team roster. Most of the players are returning students, and their new coach used to be a regular face around campus. Federico Santos was UNC Asheville’s associate head coach of volleyball until 2008, when he left the program to serve as head coach of volleyball at Barry University in Miami, Fla.
Santos first job in college athletics came in the summer of 2000 when his predecessor Julie Torbett hired him as an assistant coach. He stayed for eight seasons as an assistant and helped lead the Bulldog program to some great heights. There were three trips to the Big South Conference championship game, six winning seasons and a 2002 regular-season title. The 2002 team was a special one as the Bulldogs were picked to finish in last place but were the most improved team in the nation that year as they finished with a 26-8 overall record.
His first tenure in Asheville brought a lot of successes off the floor as well for Frederico. He met and married former Bulldog volleyball player Nathalie Steffen (class of 1997) in the summer of 2001. They now have two children. And he earned his degree from UNC Asheville in 2007. It was a history degree and something he cherishes to this day.
A few years and some NCAA-Tournament coaching experience later, Santos has returned to UNC Asheville in time for the 2011 season.
“Having been a student here, getting to know the faculty and the staff that work here day-to-day, and the student athletes that I had an on opportunity to work with on my first tour of duty, if you will – those things were a big draw to come back,” said Santos. “The alumni were very supportive in this process of getting me back here. We wanted to come back here, and we wanted the time to be right. Everything just fell into place.”
The Holistic Approach
After arriving on relatively short notice, Santos’ team might not have the depth of a full roster, but it possesses a lot of experience in the form of eight returning players. Two players are new to the program, including transfer and one true freshman.
“I think our main strength is obviously their abilities. They are good technical players,” says Santos. What I’ve tried to do is maximize their game holistically, as opposed to focusing them on their positions specifically.” This season’s short roster means that players must be capable of getting the job done while playing new positions. “I want them to do their best, given that position. I don’t want to put much pressure on them, because they’re already feeling that pressure with something new that they’ve never done.”
As for which players to keep an eye on, “Cindi Miller was a preseason conference pick,” says Santos. “She’s a senior who has a strong tradition in this program. Cindi’s the only player currently on this team that I recruited before I left. But I never saw her play, because I finished recruiting her and then I left. But she has turned out to be a great player. I knew when I recruited her that she would be good, but I didn’t expect that she would be this good.” Also, Anna Moore is another to watch. “She transferred here from N.C. State, and she’s doing a tremendous job,” says Santos. “The two players that I’ve mentioned are the ones who will probably stand out the most statistically. But the other players are the ones who are quietly doing their jobs and making a massive difference as well.”
This season is packed with many don’t-miss matchups, like the weekend of October 7-9 where the Bulldogs volleyball team plays against two conference teams: Presbyterian College and Winthrop, a long-standing fan-favorite rivalry.
“But in this conference – just the way women’s volleyball is getting more support and the teams are becoming very even,” says Santos. “You’re going to see a lot of good competition out there.”