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What to know about the 5 new Pac-12 women's volleyball head coaches

Jan 23, 2023

Pac-12 women's volleyball will have five new head coaches for the 2023 season, and a few are familiar faces. Here's what to know about the future leaders.

Arizona — Charita Stubbs

 

After 31 years at the helm, Dave Rubio announced his retirement as the winningest head coach in Arizona history and the winningest active Pac-12 women's volleyball head coach. There wasn’t a better choice to step into the role than Charita Stubbs. The Arizona volleyball alumna (1992-1994) has been on staff for 19 years with Rubio (1997 to 2005, 2013 to 2022). 

Stubbs was the first player in Arizona history to record 300 kills, 300 digs and 100 blocks in one season and helped the program make back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances. Not only does Stubbs know the culture Rubio built in Tucson but has valuable head coaching experience from a four-year stint at North Carolina State.

“I knew in 1996 (after she played professionally) I wanted to bring her back because I knew she’d be an outstanding coach,” Rubio said. “For the next 10 years, we partnered in arguably the greatest run in volleyball for us at that time..I have all the confidence in the world that Rita is the right person for the job and excited she’s been given the opportunity.” 

Arizona State — JJ Van Niel

 

The Sun Devils haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2015; JJ Van Niel will be in charge of ending that streak. Van Niel is very experienced in the Pac-12, serving as an assistant coach and associate head coach at Utah and USC for the past eight years. He has worked with a handful of All-Americans, including Dani Drews and Skylar Fields. 

“Arizona State is getting one of the best coaches in the game,” USC head coach Brad Keller said. “JJ has come full circle and his experience in the sport of volleyball has prepared him for this job. I have had the honor of working with him during arguably the most difficult time in both our professional careers…He is ready for this opportunity, and I cannot wait to witness what he brings to the Arizona State program."

Van Niel has also formed a staff with Arizona roots. Macey (Gardner) Donathan, the program’s all-time kills leader, returns to the role she had in 2017 and 2018 after serving as an assistant coach at Arkansas the past four seasons. Preslie Anderson is an Arizona native and an All-Pac-12 player at Cal. She served as a volunteer assistant with TCU last year. 

Oregon State — Lindsey Behonick

 

Lindsey Behonick knows what it takes to win after serving as an assistant coach for 10 seasons at Pitt. The Panthers are fresh off back-to-back Final Four appearances. Under head coach Dan Fisher, Behonick helped Pitt win four ACC Championships and compile a 258-62 record. Behonick and Fisher also led Behonick’s alma mater, Concordia, to a NAIA National Title in 2012 before they transitioned to Pitt. 

"Congratulations to Scott Barnes and Oregon State on making a great hire," Fisher said. "Lindsey has a high level of knowledge of volleyball and is ready to lead. She is respected in the volleyball community, is a good teacher of the game and has been waiting for the right job. She'll be a wonderful addition for Beaver Nation but will be dearly missed at Pitt."

UCLA — Alfee Reft

 

Alfee Reft was hired as the Bruins’ fourth head coach in program history after helping guide San Diego to the Final Four as an associate head coach. Reft has a ton of experience at the national team level and as an assistant in the Power 5. In addition to his time as a player for the U.S. Men’s National Team, Reft currently serves as a seasonal assistant coach for the U.S. Women's National Team under former Bruin and head coach Karch Kiraly. Reft also served as an assistant coach at Illinois and Minnesota. 

“I am beyond ecstatic for him. He's so ready as a person and a coach to 'aim for the stars' in Westwood,” Kiraly said. 

Washington — Leslie Gabriel

 

The 2020 AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year steps into the head coach role for the 2023 season. Gabriel, like Stubbs, is an alumna of the program she’s taking over. From 1995-98, Gabriel was one of the best blockers in Pac-12 history and is third all-time in the Huskies' record book with 613. 

Gabriel does have a tall task in front of her with Washington losing a strong senior class that includes All-Americans Claire Hoffman, Ella May Powell and Marin Grote. However, there’s no doubt she can manage the role. She has been on UW's staff since 2001 and an integral part of 21 straight NCAA tournaments appearances and the 2005 National Championship. 

“The UW Volleyball program has always been about the players and helping them to achieve excellence in all that they do and I cannot wait to return to work and start a new chapter with the women in the program," Gabriel said.