As he stood in the second floor hallway of the Cronin Athletic Center on Friday, Jan. 18, assistant women’s volleyball coach Matt Affolder did his best to stay calm.
Around 3 p.m., he walked into the team’s office, where athletic director and university vice president Tim Wabler officially introduced him to players and university personnel as the new head coach of the Dayton volleyball program.
“I’m really excited and can’t wait to get working with our players again,” Affolder, 39, said. “I’m just honored to be coaching at a university like Dayton.”
“Expectations are very high for this program,” Wabler said in a university news release. “Matt is the best candidate for sustaining the high level of excellence Dayton volleyball has established.”
Affolder said that when he heard that his good friend and former boss Kelly Sheffield would take over at the University of Wisconsin, he didn’t think twice about whether or not he’d apply for the position.
“As soon as [he departed], I started thinking more about how much I love this place, how much I wanted to help this place get to where they want to go and reach their goals,” Affolder said.
At the conclusion of what the athletic department described as a national search, Affolder was chosen to be the eighth head coach in program history. While it would’ve been fun working with Sheffield at Wisconsin, he said, the opportunity he has now is something he has been looking forward to.
“I’ve been working on some things to get myself prepared for this day,” he said. “It just came down to getting word or not.”
According to junior middle blocker Megan Campbell, Affolder knows better than anyone the state of the program he’s now leading.
“Knowing that we’re getting somebody from within is important for us,” Campbell said. “Getting a coach like [Affolder] is going to let us continue moving forward like we have been.”
The upcoming senior class will enter the 2013 season with a record of 80-16 overall, three Atlantic 10 championships and a new head coach that’s been part of all of it.
“I don’t think we could’ve asked for a better coach,” junior right side hitter Shayne Brown said. “We know how he is in the gym and he knows us.”
Brown added that the spring and summer workouts will be crucial for the team to get the most out of next year.
“When we finally get to [the 2013 season], it’ll be one to remember, that’s for sure,” she said.
If history is any indication, Affolder has little to worry about. Each of the previous two head coaches have finished their first seasons at Dayton with at least 21 wins and an NCAA tournament appearance.
To do that, Affolder said, improvement is always necessary.
“We’ve got to find ways to get all the individuals a little better; that means each person that’s part of this machine,” Affolder said. “We got to … keep recruiting and getting people in here that can compete at that next level.”
Affolder said having one of his best friends giving him advice will certainly help — even if they’re at different schools now.
“Kelly [Sheffield] been really supportive and is really excited for me,” he said. “I know he’ll be a continued mentor and person for me to lean on when it comes to running a program. He has proven to be great at that.”
According to Sheffield, Affolder was the perfect man for the job.
“They brought in a lot of great people and conducted an exhausted and thorough search,” Sheffield said. “At the end of the day, the [administration] realized that the perfect person was right under their nose.”
He added that having someone so dedicated on his staff at UD was a major part of the success for the program.
“It’s a great day for Flyer volleyball, to have someone who loves the school and the city and the program so much take over … the future is bright for those guys,” Sheffield said.
Both coaches agreed, however, that they’re not planning on playing each other anytime soon. If it did happen, Affolder said, it wouldn’t be intentional.
“We don’t have them on the schedule for this year, unless it comes in some postseason tournament scenario. If that happens, it happens,” he said. “But it would be a lot of fun, I think, to go and compete against some of your closest friends in that way.”
While the sentiment isn’t the same for Sheffield, the Badgers coach said he’s still going to follow Dayton and keep in touch with his former assistant as much as possible.
“I don’t really look forward to playing them, if we ever do,” Sheffield said. “But I know that both of us have great things ahead and have a lot of support from one another.”
The students on campus are just as pleased with the hiring of Affolder as the players.
“This was a no-brainer on the school’s end,” said Red Scare president Matthew Barrett. “To have someone who’s been with the team for a while take over and know what he’s doing… it’s a great day for fans.”
Volleyball has grown to be Red Scare’s most widely supported on-campus sport. After the team won the Atlantic 10 Conference championship at the Frericks Center in 2011, the group was invited by the coaches and players to join the team picture with the trophy.
“The level of commitment Affolder has is incredible,” Barrett said. “We’re looking forward to keeping the traditions going and working with him to get more fans here for games.”
Affolder said that he hopes to start hiring assistants onto his coaching staff in the near future and he’ll be working with the administration to find the best people.
“We’re going to work as hard and as fast as we can. I want to get this thing rolling and be able to do that with a full staff,” he said. “We’ve also got to get back to recruiting and working our tails off. We want to reach our goals.”