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December 17, 2017

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Head Volleyball Coach Wins Gold Medal in Peru

July 13, 2015

Pablo Juarez, staff writer for The Mercury — the student newspaper at UT Dallas — wrote this article.

UT Dallas Volleyball team

Marci Sanders (bottom, second from left) served on the staff of the U.S. women's national volleyball team that recently won the Pan American Cup in Peru. She said she hopes to instill some of what she observed from the U.S. team into the Comets this season. (Photo courtesy of Marci Sanders)

After serving as a staff member on the U.S. women’s national volleyball team at the Pan American Cup, UT Dallas head volleyball coach Marci Sanders recently came home with a gold medal after the team’s first-place finish.

At the tournament, which was held June 13-21 in Peru, the U.S. team swept the competition, going undefeated and losing only one set during the competition. In the final match, the U.S. dethroned defending champion Dominican Republic, 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-15) to capture its fourth Pan American Cup.

Before this year’s tournament, Sanders had some prior affiliation with Team USA through the collegiate national team.

“It started a few years ago,” Sanders said. “Tom Pingel, who’s with the collegiate national team, was looking for a place to train. They stayed in our residence halls and ate in our dining hall. The next year, I got invited to work with the collegiate national team in Minnesota. I actually got the opportunity to co-coach a team.”

Her name was eventually passed around to important people in the volleyball community, including Karch Kiraly, head coach of the women’s national team, who contacted Sanders about the opportunity.

“[It was the] day before April Fools' Day. I’ll never forget it because I thought someone was messing with me, Coach Kiraly called me and said he got good recommendations and was looking for staff to go to Peru,” Sanders said. “Of course I got excited. … A couple days later I told him I’d love the opportunity.”

While in Peru, Sanders was a team leader and director of operations. Her responsibilities centered on taking care of all the necessary paperwork for the team and making sure the players had anything they needed — from groceries to laundry.

“I made sure the paperwork side of things was taken care of, that way the coaches could focus on coaching and the players focus on playing. So I took care of all the outside distractions,” Sanders said.

This was her first international trip, and she said one of the biggest takeaways from her experience was to not take the conveniences of the United States for granted.

“It’s definitely a different environment there,” Sanders said. “I told my family I was going to go drink out of the water hose [here] because I could, whereas there you’re not even supposed to brush your teeth with water.”

From a coaching standpoint, she noticed the calm aura behind Team USA. Most importantly, she noticed the player-coach relationship, which focused on the importance of treating the players like the people that they are above anything else.

“There was a big calmness over everything within the women’s national team,” Sanders said. “Even though we had some injuries and things were a little stressful, David Hunt, the head coach, and the staff kept a calm confident demeanor about them. That’ll be something I’ll carry on to my staff and my team.”

Sanders, who has led UT Dallas to a record of 252-101 along with three NCAA Division III national tournament appearances during her tenure, hopes to translate what she learned during her experience in Peru to the Comets. From a technical perspective, she wants to revamp the team's workout and training regimens as well as use new preparation tools, such as scorekeeping and film coverage.

Most importantly, Sanders hopes to carry over the calmness and poise shown by Team USA players and staff.

“[Assistant Coach Zach Villarreal] and I already do a good job of making sure the athletes feel like people first and players second,” she said. “I definitely liked that calmness and even if you’re feeling a little nervous or jittery about something or stressed out, that you (roll with the punches). That’ll be something (to implement).”

Media Contact: Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected]


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