Rich Named Head Volleyball Coach At VSU

Published 3:19 pm Thursday, August 11, 2011

Former Cumberland High School volleyball standout Ivana Rich has been a college volleyball head coach as long as she's been 23-years-old.

Virginia State University announced it had hired Rich on Tuesday, the same day she turned 23, making her what is “believed to be the youngest” head volleyball coach in the country by the NCAA.

But don't confuse her young age with a lack of experience. In fact, her youth – rather a product of youth – may have been what set her apart from the rest of the field.

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“I think it was my energy,” said Rich. “I do feel I can bring a lot of energy to this program, and I can relate to the girls a lot better.”

Given that the average age of a college student is only two or three years younger than she is, doesn't seem to bother her.

“It's unreal, and it could be mind-blowing if I let it be,” said Rich. “I'm an old 23, though. I think it also drives me to be even better.”

After rewriting the record books at Cumberland High School, Rich signed a National Letter of Intent to play volleyball at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Originally thought of as a red-shirt project – a diamond in the rough for Division I standards – Rich flourished in the collegiate game, and had her redshirt status removed before the end of her freshman year.

She made her mark on the program. She was named All-CAA First Team in 2008, and to the Second Team in 2009. Additionally, she was named to the CAA All-Tournament team in 2009 and was named to COBRA Magazine's All-National Third Team in 2009.

Along the way, she also set two school records, finishing with a total of 384 career blocks in 117 matches and charting a .332 single-season hitting percentage.

Following her collegiate career, she had planned to play professionally overseas, but the offers weren't good enough for her to extend her playing career.

“That's when coaching came up as an option,” said Rich. “I found that I liked it almost as much.”

She moved on to Chowan University as an assistant, and helped lead the school to the CIAA championship in 2010.

“I gained a lot of experience at Chowan, and have learned from coaches throughout my career. Hopefully, I can be a coach I would like to have if I were still playing.”

Virginia State finished with an 11-18 record last season, and was 11-7 in league play.

“They were mid-conference last year, so it's not a complete rebuild. I see a lot of potential here to establish a winning program that can compete for league championships. I think we have a lot of solid players that have the potential to develop into top players in our league.

“It's going to be a year of learning and developing. We're going to concentrate on volleyball and our academics. I want to teach them everything I know.”

In addition to her coaching duties, Rich was also named the department's Senior Women's Administrator. She's also pursuing her Master's degree in Counselor Education from VSU.

“I can definitely see myself doing this for a while,” said Rich. “The team seems excited, and I'm excited.”