The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Meet the Coaches: Sara Thomas

Sara Thomas is in her fourth year as the Eastern volleyball head coach. (File)

Sara Thomas is the women’s volleyball and beach volleyball head coach for the Panthers.

From Belleville, Illinois, Thomas attended Althoff Catholic High School, which is just about 20 minutes from St. Louis. Thomas was a very successful three-sport athlete in high school playing volleyball, basketball, and track and field where she was a high jumper. Thomas was also coached in volleyball by her aunt, Kathy Wuller, who is a Missouri State Athletics Hall of Famer.

“It was great, I had a lot of success, I went to state in volleyball, I went to state in basketball, and I got second in state for high jump. One year I went to state in all three.”

After an amazing athletic career at Althoff Catholic, Thomas took her volleyball talents to the collegiate level as she attended Missouri State University. At Missouri State she had a huge impact in leading the team to three NCAA tournaments in her four years that she was there. Thomas was named first team All-Missouri Valley Conference and won Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.

Soon after college, Thomas began her coaching career in 2009 as a JV coach at her high school, Althoff Catholic. She then moved up to head coach in 2011. In her final year there, 2017, the team went 41-1 and won the IHSA Class 3A State Title.

Thomas spoke highly of the winning state because her aunt, who was Thomas’ assistant at the time, never won a championship and “the fact that we did it together, the first time ever in Althoff History, was the most special win for us,” Thomas said.

The year after winning state, Thomas went back to Missouri State to be an assistant coaching for two years, 2018 and 2019.

“My mom and aunt were both coaches, so I was raised around coaches. My mom coached at McKendree [University] and my aunt at Althoff. In high school I always joked with my aunt that I was going to come back and take her spot and that’s what I did.”

When the head coaching job at Eastern Illinois opened up in 2019, Thomas knew she had to take the job.

“Being from Illinois, I already know how much talent the state has in volleyball. I knew how much potential EIU had. I wanted to bring back the pride and help grow the sport of volleyball in Illinois.”

In the four years since Thomas took over the Eastern program, she has improved their win total in every season, from two wins in 2020, to 11 in 2021, 16 in 2022, and now up to 20 this season with six games left in the regular season.

“It has been rewarding to see how every year we’ve progressed and the support that EIU and the community has for our program and our players.”

Cameron Thomas can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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