Denise Van De Walle To Retire After 2011 Season

Updated 4/21/2011
Story Courtesy of BGSU Media Relations

Bowling Green, Ohio - Bowling Green State University volleyball coach Denise Van De Walle has announced that she will retire from coaching following the 2011 season. Van De Walle is the winningest coach in Mid-American Conference history with a mark of 508-366 in 28 seasons at Bowling Green.

"The time is right for this change," Van De Walle said. "I have been blessed beyond words to have spent my entire 28-year Division I head coaching career at one place. Very few coaches get the opportunity to spend their entire career with one school."

A four-time MAC Coach of the Year, Van De Walle's teams have posted 13 20-win seasons and a 30-win campaign in 1992. She was honored as the top coach in the league in 1986, 1987, 1989, and 1992.

Van De Walle was named the head coach of BGSU volleyball on June 30, 1983 and has the longest tenure of any current head coach at the University. She has experience coaching at the high school, college, national, and international levels.

"There have been many, many people who have made my time here so special," Van De Walle said. "I have so many amazing memories of current and former BG coaches and of course, the current and former players who I've had the privilege to coach and continue to keep me involved in their lives. I will always be indebted to my first Athletics Director, Jack Gregory, who took a chance on a young, naïve coach and gave me an incredible opportunity to build a championship program. Also, our Falcon fans have made me and our team feel loved throughout the years. The Lord has truly blessed me here. I am very proud of what we've accomplished."

The program's most successful stretch came from 1989-93 when the team had five consecutive 20-win seasons, won three MAC regular season crowns and was runner-up once. The 1989 team won the program's first conference title, snapping Western Michigan's 98-match league winning streak and seven-year reign as league champions. The squad finished a perfect 8-0 in league play, the only undefeated MAC season in program history.

The 1991 team made the program's first NCAA appearance and the Falcons finished the year ranked No. 19 in the country. The 1992 team then set a school record for victories in a season by going 30-8 and the Falcons capped a spectacular season with a runner-up finish at the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) - the highest ever finish by a MAC member. The team again advanced to the NIVC in 1993, placing second in the both MAC regular season and tournament.

"It's hard to imagine BGSU Volleyball without Denise," Director of Athletics Greg Christopher said. "Her standard of excellence, both on the court and in the classroom, over the course of 28 years is one that everyone should aim for. As we open the Stroh Center this fall, we will take time to celebrate the legacy of Denise's career at BGSU."

For all of the team's on-court achievements, Van De Walle's squads have perennially been one of the best in the classroom as well. She has had numerous regional Academic All-Americans and Emily Manser was a member of the Academic All-America team in both 2004 and 2005. Linda Popovich received the Walter Byers Award 1990, given annually to the top graduating male and female seniors in the country and requiring a minimum 3.50 cumulative grade point average. She is the only female in conference history to receive first team all-academic national honors twice.

The program has received the AVCA National Academic Award 11 consecutive years, the second-longest streak in the country, and had one season with the highest overall grade point average in the country.

A 1976 graduate of Ball State, Van De Walle led Northside High School in Muncie, Ind. to a record of 54-9 in two seasons. Her 1977 team went 29-1 en route to the state championship. She was named Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) Coach of the Year following the 1978 campaign, before moving on to become a graduate assistant at her alma mater in 1979, coaching the junior varsity team.

In 1980, Van De Walle returned to Northside and guided the team to a 25-3 record, while also coaching the Michiana Volleyball Club that participated in the United State Volleyball Association (USVBA) Junior Nationals in California and the Junior Olympics in Illinois. In 1981, she joined the program at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo as an assistant coach and helped the Mustangs to a 41-8 record and a fifth place finish in the NCAA Division I Championships. She went back to Ball State as an assistant coach in 1982 before landing the head coaching job at Bowling Green.

In May of 2001, Van De Walle was named President of the American Volleyball Coaches Association and has been active in the AVCA during her career, serving on the Board of Directors from 1993-2000. She also sat on the Board of Directors for USA Volleyball.

Van De Walle also coached Athletes in Action in 1983 and 1984, leading teams that toured the Far East with stops in Hong Kong, Japan and China. She also led AIA volleyball teams on tours of Bolivia and South Africa in 1995 and 1996. In 1991 and 1993, she coached at the U.S. Olympic Festival, guiding the East to a bronze medal in Los Angeles in 1991. In 1992, Van De Walle ran the USVBA women's senior elite camp in Colorado Springs.

From 2003-08, Van De Walle served as the assistant coach for the USA National Sitting Team. Along with Mike Hulett, she founded the team in 2003 and the unit earned a bronze medal in the first Sitting Volleyball Paralympics for women in Athens, Greece in 2004. She helped lead the team to a second place finish in the Asia-Oceanic Cup in the summer of 2007 and captured a bronze medal at the first World Organization Volleyball for the Disabled Intercontinental Cup in Egypt in April of 2008. The team then won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

A loyal supporter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Van De Walle was part of the first-ever international missions trip for FCA in the summer of 1998, conducting clinics and speaking at various youth and church functions in Singapore. She returned to the country in the summer of 2000. Van De Walle was inducted in the Northwest Ohio chapter of the FCA's Hall of Champions in May of 2010, being honored in the inaugural class.

In all, Van De Walle's players have earned 51 All-MAC Awards, 65 MAC Player of the Week honors, 12 MAC Commissioner's Awards, four MAC President's Awards, eight All-Mideast Region Awards, 104 MAC Academic Honor Roll Awards, 50 Academic All-MAC honors, three Academic All-American Awards, six BGSU Junior Scholar Athlete Awards, a Senior Scholar Athlete Award, and a BGSU Medal of Honor.

"I love Bowling Green," Van De Walle said. "However, I've been thinking about making this move for a while. One of my goals, though, was to coach my team in the Stroh Center so I wanted to coach long enough to do that. Next season will be a special one!"