After seven seasons at the helm of Chicago volleyball, head coach Dorinda von Tersch announced last week that she will not be returning next fall, citing family reasons.
Von Tersch confirmed reports of her departure, but declined to give further comment.
“It was her decision,” athletic director Tom Weingartner said. “I don’t want to speak for her, but I think that it looks like the family is moving out of the area. She’s resigning on her own, and I don’t believe she’s taken another position.”
The decision caught many team members off guard.
“We were all really sad,” third-year middle hitter Katie Volzer said. “It was out of nowhere really, but no one’s mad about it or anything, we all understand her situation.”
“I don’t think it was anything that we saw coming, it was just a good time in her life to make that transition,” said third-year outside hitter Kerry Dornfeld. “It was something that she did because it was a good time for her and her family.”
After guiding the DI Colgate Raiders to a Patriot Conference Championship and an NCAA tournament berth in 1999, von Tersch came to Chicago in 2001. Despite a 5–24 record in her inaugural season, she led the Maroons to a fifth-place UAA finish that year, the squad’s highest in five years.
Although Chicago struggled for most of von Tersch’s tenure, it set an impressive 20–14 mark in the fall of 2004, a record that still stands as volleyball’s only winning season since 1996.
Following this bright spot, the Maroons slumped again in von Tersch’s final seasons, finishing this fall at 7–26 and taking last place in the UAA. The coach leaves Chicago with a 66–169 career win-loss record.
From here, Weingartner enters a hiring process that began officially on Wednesday, as the department of physical education and athletics began advertising for the new coaching position.
“This is a faculty position, so we just yesterday began a national search,” Weingartner said. “And that means advertising nationally, mostly with the NCAA news, U.S. volleyball coaches association, and NCAA D-III athletics directors. Then, the department will form a faculty search committee, which is always three faculty members.”
Incorporating current team members into the process to help ease the transition will be an integral part of the search.
“I met with the team the other night,” Weingartner said, “and we will select several team members to be part of the interview process. We’ll just try and get the best students who will do the best job representing the team. It’s not necessarily seniority or who is the best player, just who we think will do the best job helping.”
As they face uncertainty about next year, team members are confident about the way the search will head.
“I think they should just be concerned with the best candidate for us, someone who knows about the game and will be the best leader for us,” Dornfeld said. “It will be good to make sure the players are involved and that we have a say in it as well, but I have faith the department will do everything they can to get us a good coach.”
Von Tersch will stay on to finalize recruiting, and Weingartner will also play a key role during the transition period. However, athletes have stepped into leadership roles within the squad, helping the team move through the process and keeping in touch with recruits and updating them about the situation.
As for von Tersch, players say they’ll miss the coach who helped her players as much off the court as on it, acting as a surrogate mother to many Maroons.
“She’s been a second mom to everybody,” Dornfeld said. “She’s very interested in being there for us as people and not just as players. She’s been a great mentor and just a great person, and we will definitely miss her.”
Looking for a replacement, the department can only hope that it scores a coach who can immediately make an impact in the way that two other coaching newcomers have. The University’s two most recent head coach hires, swimming coach Jason Weber and men’s soccer coach Scott Wiercinski, have both enjoyed early success. Weber has transformed his once struggling men’s squad into a top ten contender, while Wiercinski took his team to the postseason in his first year.