Colleen Munson enters her eighth season as the head coach of the Western Michigan volleyball team, and in her time can lay claim to achievements that no other coach in program history can match. Coming off their Mid-American Conference record 11th NCAA Tournament bid, the Broncos look poised to remain the gold standard for volleyball in the MAC for the 2012 season.
Taking over a program in 2005 that finished better than third in the MAC West just three times since 1990, Munson has led the Broncos to three MAC West championships, including an outright MAC title in 2008, and NCAA Tournament at-large bids in 2008 and 2011. Munson's teams have never finished third in their own division, and her seven consecutive 20-win seasons are a program record for coaches.
The Broncos’ success on the court has been matched by their success in the classroom. Western Michigan has earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award in 2005-06, 2008-09 and 2009-10 for having a team grade-point average of 3.30 or higher. Munson’s teams have also been recognized by the NCAA for ranking in the top-10 percent of all volleyball programs in Academic Progress Rate (APR) in 2007 and 2008.
The Broncos reached their second NCAA Tournament under Munson in 2011, compiling a 24-9 record and receiving an at-large bid to the tournament. The Broncos finished fourth in NCAA Division I in assists and ninth in kills, buoyed by their setter and MAC Freshman of the Year Terin Norris. Norris was one of three Broncos to receive First Team All-MAC honors, joining middle blocker Jessica Brown and libero Lena Oliver, and ranked 14th in the nation in assists, one of the top marks for a freshman. Oliver earned her second straight COBRA Magazine National Defensive Player of the Year award, tying the single-season program record for digs (700) and ranking second in digs per set (5.71).
In 2010, the Broncos finished with a 22-10 overall record and were 12-4 in the MAC, finishing second in the West division before falling in the MAC Tournament to Miami. Setter Sam Viox continued the tradition of quality setters, winning MAC Setter of the Year honors; it was the third consecutive season that a Bronco earned the award. Viox picked up All-MAC First-Team honors, as did junior middle blocker Jessica Brown. Brown notched 379 kills last season for an average of 3.30 kills per set, a figure that ranked seventh in the MAC. Brown also ranked eighth in the conference in hitting percentage, putting balls away at a .311 clip; she was one of just two players in the MAC to rank in the top-10 in both kills per set and hitting percentage in 2010. Doyle concluded her career on a strong note by earning All-MAC Second-Team honors. Freshman libero Lena Oliver was named COBRA Magazine Defensive Player of the Year after finishing eighth in the nation and second in the MAC in digs with an average of 5.61 digs per set in 2010. That average ranks second for a single season in the WMU record book, while her total of 645 digs ranks fourth for a single season.
The 2009 edition of the Broncos finished 24-11 and dominated the MAC West with a 13-3 mark on the way to reaching the finals of the MAC Tournament for the second consecutive season. Senior setter Jillian Mitchell was named MAC Setter of the Year for the second season in a row, while Jessica Brown became the fourth MAC Freshman of the Year in school history and the first since 1993. The Broncos finished the season ranked 54th in the country in the final rankings released by the NCAA. The Broncos continued to display outstanding defense as they finished the season 43rd of 329 teams in digs per set (16.65). WMU was also in the top-90 in assists per set (79th-12.25), kills per set (83rd-13.18) and attack percentage (87th-.223).
Munson first took the Broncos to the NCAA Tournament in 2008, when she led Western Michigan to the best season in more than 20 years and a Mid-American Conference record 10th NCAA Tournament, and a berth in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1987. The 2008 Broncos defeated host Dayton, 3-1, in the opening round and No. 16 Tulane, 3-2, in the second round to earn two NCAA Tournament victories for only the second time in school history and the first time since 1983. With all of that success, WMU ended the year No. 25 in the country in the final NCAA Ratings Percentage Index and No. 26 in the final Bison/American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25.
Overall, the Broncos finished the year 28-7, the most wins since 1987, and won their eighth Mid-American Conference championship with a 14-2 mark.
Not only have the Broncos achieved team success under Munson’s tutelage, but she has also helped mentor 13 different All-MAC performers, including seven First Team All-MAC performers and seven Academic All-MAC members, including three-time Academic All-District honoree Katie Eberling.
Mitchell became the first MAC Setter of the Year in WMU history in 2008, while also earning First Team All-MAC and AVCA All-Mideast Region Honorable Mention honors. Junior Caitlin Strimel was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row, the first time that has ever happened in MAC history, in addition to being named First Team All-MAC with junior outside hitter Michelle Moore, only the 10th two-time first team selection in school history. Sophomore middle blocker Jaime Gotham was named Second Team All-MAC as the Broncos won three tournaments (Aquafina Invitational, Redbird Classic and Golden Dome Invitational) during the regular season.
In 2007, the Broncos won their first Mid-American Conference West Division title since 2000 with a 12-4 conference mark and a 21-12 record overall. WMU was led by Strimel, the first MAC Defensive Player of the Year in school history, First Team All-MAC outside hitter Moore, Second Team All-MAC middle blocker Ashley Vogl and MAC All-Freshman Team outside hitter Allyson Doyle.
The Broncos opened the year by splitting against two 2007 NCAA Tournament teams in Northern Iowa and Kentucky (W, 3-0) at the UNI Invitational and then closed the season against two more NCAA Tournament members to finish the season with six on the schedule (No. 15 Dayton, No. 20 Ohio, Xavier, Miami-Ohio).
In 2006, Munson led the Broncos to a 21-15 campaign and a berth in the MAC Tournament semifinals. WMU featured five all-conference performers, led by First Team All-MAC senior setter Jenifer Sulewski. Sulewski led the MAC with a WMU record 1,760 assists and the first two triple-doubles in school history.
Senior outside hitter Kathryn Babcock and Vogl were both named Second Team All-MAC. Babcock was among the MAC leaders in kills and points and finished the year with 1,014 career kills to become only the 15th player in school history to achieve that feat. Vogl blossomed in her second season under Munson to become the second most efficient hitter in the MAC (.313 attack percentage).
The Broncos also featured a talented freshman class that earned WMU Prepvolleyball.com Highest Honorable Mention honors for its depth and quality. Three of those players made an immediate impact and two, Katie Eberling and Strimel, were named to the MAC All-Freshman Team. Eberling delivered 460 kills in her rookie campaign, the seventh-best single season total in school history, while Strimel finished with a school-record 700 digs.
The team continued to play a tough schedule that included five 2006 NCAA Tournament teams, three of which finished the season in the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Top 25 (No. 3 UCLA, No. 18 Purdue, No. 25 Ohio, Long Beach State and UC-Santa Barbara).
In her first season as head coach, Munson led the Broncos to their best finish since 2000 (20-9, 11-5 MAC) and a bye into the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament. The Broncos started the season strong by winning the Indiana University TIS Invitational and the WMU Fall Kickoff Tournament and ended strong as Marquette Tournament champions. The team was also successful in the classroom and was awarded the AVCA Academic Award.
Munson helped Shaylen Jackson and Sulewski earn All-MAC accolades and Jackson received Honorable Mention All-Mideast Region honors by the AVCA.
Munson spent five seasons as head coach at East Carolina (2000-04). During her first season, she became only the third coach in program history to post a first-year winning record in leading the Pirates to their first winning campaign since 1995. The team went 17-13 behind the play of two all-conference performers and finished third in the Colonial Athletic Association and ranked sixth regionally, the first regional ranking in school history.
ECU made the move up in competition to Conference USA in 2001 and Munson guided the team to the Conference USA Tournament in her first season in the league. In 2003, Jaime Bevan made the C-USA All-Freshman Team to become the first Pirate volleyball player to earn all-conference honors since ECU joined the league.
A native of Glen Ellyn, Ill., Munson spent three years (1997-99) as an assistant at Western Michigan for head coach Cathy George. During her stint in Kalamazoo, the Broncos had a .619 winning percentage (57-35), including a 25-7 season in 1999 that saw the team go 15-3 in the MAC and advance to the MAC Tournament title match for the first time in a decade. With several players that Munson helped recruit, WMU went on to go 26-5 and advance to the NCAA Tournament in 2000.
With Munson’s help, four players earned all-conference honors (Traci Morin, Mandy Whitfield, Stefanie Rotunno, Jen Nowak) and two players were alternates and training squad members for the United States entry in the Pan Am games in 1999.
Munson was also a successful coach at the club level for the West Michigan Volleyball Association’s 17- and 18-year old teams. Her nationally-recognized “Dead Frogs” competed at the highest levels possible and continually earned regional and national acclaim.
In both 1998 and 1999, the Dead Frogs finished fifth in the country at the national tournament and featured three total All-America honorees during that span.
Munson started her collegiate career at North Dakota State before transferring to Texas-Arlington for the 1990 season. She helped lead the Mavericks to the NCAA Tournament in 1990 and Southland Conference championships in 1990 and 1992. As a three-year starter, Munson ended her career fifth all-time at UTA with 4,089 assists.
Munson earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Texas-Arlington in 1993 and a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan in 2001.
Prior to moving on to the college ranks, Munson was a player on the 1986 and 1987 Sports Performance back-to-back national championship club teams.
Munson and her husband, Matt, are the parents of a son, Jacob, and daughter, Bryn. They reside in Portage.