Allison Lawrence, an assistant coach for the Grizzlies since 2010, has been named the next head coach of the Montana volleyball program, pending approval by the Board of Regents.
One of three finalists for the position when it was last open, after the 2014 season, Lawrence was elevated from assistant to interim head coach in November following the resignation of Brian Doyon.
After going through a series of interviews on campus last week, Lawrence was offered and accepted the job. It was the realization of a dream that began more than a decade ago, when she was playing collegiately at Oregon State for Nancy Somera.
“I put her on a pedestal,” says Lawrence. “She was a woman I wanted to emulate in a lot of ways, so I started to imagine myself being like her, doing what she did. It started out as a thought in the back of my mind and became a career path I wanted to explore.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to make it a reality. I’m honored. This is a dream job for me.”
Lawrence’s appointment comes after a tumultuous half decade for the Griz volleyball program. Jerry Wagner stepped down after the 2014 season, following the team’s second 6-23 record in three years.
Doyon, previously an assistant coach at Utah, was hired in January 2015. Montana went 8-20 in Doyon’s first year, 5-21 last fall. The Grizzlies finished 6-26 in league matches in two years under Doyon.
Lawrence, who was hired by Wagner and retained by Doyon, was an assistant coach at Trinity University, a Division III school in San Antonio, Texas, prior to being hired by Wagner in 2010.
“Allison has earned this job and is ready for it,” said Director of Athletics Kent Haslam. “She is her own coach who has her own vision for the program and her own plan. I have great confidence in her abilities. I know the players will respond to her.
“She had a great career as a student-athlete and is very well respected in the volleyball community. When she was named interim head coach in November, she took the reins and led the program. She proved this is the job she wants.”
Somera and Lawrence teamed up to lead the Beavers to the NCAA tournament in 2001, the outside hitter’s freshman year. Lawrence was voted honorable mention All-Pac 10 as a junior and senior.
Both left Oregon State after the 2004 season. Lawrence, originally from Alta Loma, Calif., returned to Southern California after graduating in 2005 to start her coaching career, first at Pomona-Pitzer, then at La Verne. Somera took over the program at South Carolina.
“There was never a doubt that Allison would achieve whatever she set her mind to. She was always very tenacious in her approach to getting better and always held herself to a really high standard,” says Somera, now the coach at Division III Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island.
“She is intense and competitive, but she keeps it internal. On the exterior what you see is calm and collected. She has a calmness about her when there is a storm, and in a sport like volleyball, her team will feed off that.”
Lawrence, like all of Montana’s new head coaches dating back to the hiring of Nikki Best in 2000, is faced with a rebuilding effort. Montana hasn’t won a Big Sky title since 1994 and has won just a single Big Sky tournament match since 1996.
Over the last five seasons, the Grizzlies are 61 matches under .500, and it hasn’t always been the talent level of the two teams on the court that has led to those results.
“We need to recommit to the standards that made this university and the other programs in this department great. That’s what is going to get us there,” Lawrence said. “We need to have a renewed sense of commitment and belief in who we are as a team.
“The goal will always be to win matches, but first we have to establish what our team is about and then live that every day. If we do that, good things will come.”
Montana will play its first matches under Lawrence in August at North Texas’s tournament.