Allie Matters always looked like head-coaching material to those around her while spending seven years as the top assistant at Seton Hall. Many thought she’d make the jump after having a major impact in helping her alma mater earn its first NCAA tourney berth in 2014.
But the former All-Big East volleyball player was waiting for the right opportunity.
»RELATED: Matters takes over WSU program
“We had a good season in 2014, and everybody said, ‘You’re ready, you’re ready.’ But I just don’t think success means you’re ready for something that’s the magnitude of being a head coach,” she said.
“I took my time and was patient. When the Wright State job opened, I thought, ‘This could be it.’ A lot of the student-athletes come from really good volleyball clubs in Ohio and Kentucky, and I knew the team should be way more successful than they were.”
The first-year coach is leading the program to new heights so far this season. Since a season-opening loss to Connecticut, the Raiders have ripped off five straight wins and beat West Virginia on the road for its first victory over a power-five conference foe since 2006.
They swept three games in the Morehead State Invitational last weekend with Celia Powers being named MVP and fellow sophomores Abby Barcus and Teddie Sauer earning all-tourney honors.
Sauer was the MVP of the West Virginia Invitational with Barcus being named all-tourney.
“I think a lot of the girls have renewed their love for the game,” Matters said.
Though she chose not to implement any drastic changes, Matters raised the standard for how her players approach practices and games.
“We say it’s OK to lose a match if the team on the other side of the net is better than us. But hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. We want to be the hardest working team, and it’s a really helping us out,” she said.
MORE WRIGHT STATE
The Raiders were picked eighth out of nine teams in the Horizon League preseason poll. They haven’t had a winning season overall since 2001 and haven’t done better than 5-11 in the league since a 10-6 mark in 2008.
From 2011-14, they lost 35 consecutive conference games.
“We’re an underdog, and it’s fueling the girls,” Matters said. “We want to be underestimated. It’s working in our favor. It’s going to be hard for coaches in the Horizon League to change their student-athletes’ minds about what Wright State is because it hasn’t been successful in so long.”
The Raiders, who will play at North Carolina State in a three-match event this weekend, have been relying on youth in their breakthrough season. Six of the nine players in the regular rotation are freshmen and sophomores.
Asking veterans to step aside for newcomers could cause a rift in some programs, but Matters believes her team is unified.
“Our upperclassmen love being a part of it, and there’s no resentment,” she said. “Everybody is so excited to feel so differently about where we’re headed this year that they’re open to a lot of young kids being the core of our team.”
The Raiders have changed their outlook about what they can accomplish.
“They’re not going to be satisfied until they win a Horizon League championship,” Matters said.
BASKETBALL: Longtime ESPN college-basketball analyst Mark Adams will be the speaker at the fourth-annual Raider Tip-Off Premier at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at the Nutter Center. The event includes a VIP reception, dinner and interaction with the men’s and women’s teams.
General admission tickets cost $60 and VIP tickets $100 and can be purchased at WSURaiders.com or by calling (937) 775-3511.
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