By PHIL NOVOTNY
The University of Tampa volleyball program is a powerhouse under head coach Chris Catanach. The program is built to be victorious year after year. In 33 years at the helm, Catanach’s Spartans have won 25 Sunshine State Conference (SSC) championships, along with 30 NCAA Tournament appearances, 17 NCAA Elite Eight appearances, four NCAA runner-up finishes and two NCAA titles in 2006 and 2014.
In addition to his abundance of accolades, Catanach eclipsed the 1,000-win plateau with a victory over Franklin Pierce University (FPU) last Friday, in a 3-0 sweep of the Ravens.
“It’s a testimony to how great of a coach he is and how much hard work he puts into what he loves,” said senior outside hitter Allee Stelogeannis. She recorded 11 kills and digs to seal the victory against FPU. “It was an honor to be able to help him reach that milestone,” Stelogeannis said.
He becomes the third Division II coach to reach the 1,000-win mark and the second within the division to accomplish this milestone with one school. Former three-time All-American outside hitter Berkley Whaley applauds Catanach’s latest feat. “Coach Catanach reaching the pinnacle of 1,000 wins is nothing short of amazing,” Whaley said. “It is an achievement that is well-deserved and just another pillar for him to stand on.”
On a larger scale, he is the eighth coach among all NCAA divisions to win 1,000 games, putting him in the same class with notable NCAA coaching legend Larry Bock, who won 1,305 career games (most all-time among all NCAA divisions) at Juniata College and the United States Naval Academy.
With that in mind, Catanach is glad to have the spotlight off of him as the 2016 season progresses for the Spartans. “I am glad the focus on the season will shift to the team and the players,” Catanach said. Since their triumph over Franklin Pierce on Sept. 2, Catanach’s Spartans were victorious over University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. The Spartans also knocked off the University of Indianapolis, Lock Haven University and Ashland University at the UIndy Volleyball Invitational this past weekend to increase Catanach’s career win total to 1,004.
Catanach attributes his successes to those who were able to experience the journey with him. “I have been coaching a long time, and there are a lot of players to thank,” Catanach said. “I can’t thank everyone enough for the tremendous opportunities I have had.”
He also gives specific appreciation to his family. “My wife Linda and daughters Kellie and Christina sacrificed a ton for me over the years,” Catanach said. “She [Linda] is also my greatest source of praise and criticism, which helps me stay grounded.”
Whaley elaborates on Catanach’s mentality as a players coach. “Coach [Catanach] is a fatherly figure,” Whaley said, “He really cares about his players not only because they’re his athletes, but he cares about our families and how we’re doing in school; it’s evident in the way he works with us.”
When asked about how to move the program even further, Catanach put emphasis on recruiting. “We will continue to recruit great student athletes who want to be a part of UT and the many wonderful opportunities we have here,” Catanach said. He also listed caring about his players as one of the key factors for maintaining a prestigious program.
Stelogeannis analyzes the evolution of the program under Catanach. “I think he developed his style and once he figured that out, he gained a reputation under which people want to play for him,” Stelogeannis said, “They hear ‘Tampa’ and they think of the success Coach [Catanach] has had over the years.
The Spartans will take on conference foes Eckerd College on Friday. For the rest of the month, UT will face-off against Embry-Riddle University and Rollins College at home, while traveling to Florida Tech University and Florida Southern College.
Stelogeannis describes Catanach’s coaching style, which can play a factor in UT’s action-packed schedule for the month of September. “Everything we do in practice has a purpose and he makes sure we don’t cut corners and we get the most out of each practice or game,” Stelogeannis said.
Phil Novotny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org