Column: Coaching carousel keeps turning for Eastern volleyball


The Daily Eastern News

Adam Tumin | The Daily Eastern News Junior Laurel Bailey attempts a bump pass in Eastern’s 3-0 loss against Southern Illinois on Nov. 6 at Lantz Arena.

Adam Tumino, Volleyball Reporter

When the Eastern volleyball team begins its 2020 season next August, the sidelines will be patrolled by the program’s fourth head coach in the last seven seasons.

It was announced on Nov. 17 that Julie Allen’s contract was not renewed, making her second season as the team’s head coach her last. The Panthers struggled in Allen’s second season, finishing with an overall record of 3-26 and a 1-15 conference record.

The OVC was a highly competitive conference this season. Every team that made the conference tournament posted a record of 9-7 or above, the first time since 2007 that none of the top-eight teams had a sub-.500 record.

The dominance of the conference’s postseason made it difficult for the bottom-four teams, but Eastern and Belmont bore the brunt of it.

The Panthers and Bruins each went 1-15 in conference play, making them the first OVC teams to pick up just a single conference win since Tennessee Tech did so in both 2012 and 2013, when the conference was still broken up into an East and West division.

Eastern Athletic Director Tom Michael released a statement on Allen’s dismissal on Nov. 17.

“These decisions are never easy to make and I want to thank Coach Allen for her work with the program the last two years,” Michael said. “At this time we feel that a new direction in leadership needs to be taken to provide our volleyball student-athletes the best experience they can have during their time in the Eastern Illinois program.”

It was also said in the statement that a “national search for Allen’s replacement will begin immediately.”

The timing of Allen’s departure assures that next season’s senior class for the Eastern volleyball team will have played for three head coaches in their four seasons.

The seniors in 2020 will be Laurel Bailey, Madison Cunningham and Caroline Kirchmer. Kylie Michael will be a redshirt-junior next season.

Their careers at Eastern began under head coach Sam Wolinski, whose contract was not renewed after the 2017 season, in which the Panthers posted an overall record of 15-15 and earned the seventh seed in the OVC tournament with an 8-8 conference record.

The 2019 season’s seniors – Breanna Jager, Morgan Matusik, Maggie Runge and Katie Sommer – played under Wolinski and Allen as well but were originally recruited by Wolinski’s predecessor Kate Price.

Back-to-back senior classes for the Panthers have been or will be involved with three different head coaches in their collegiate careers.

Perhaps the program can find more stability under the next head coach.

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]du.