Meet SIU’s New Volleyball Coach: Ed Allen

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Reporter

This past season proved to be a tough one for SIU Volleyball as they went 5-26 on the season and 1-17 in MVC play.

After the season, former Saluki head coach Kari Thompson’s contract was terminated, and SIU’s athletic director Jerry Kill announced Ed Allen as her successor.

Coaching is a difficult profession, and sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, but you have to move programs forward,” Kill said. “I think we moved our program more than forward.”

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Prior to coming to Carbondale, Allen was the head coach for the University of Alabama volleyball team.

During his eight years at Alabama, Allen totaled a 152-101 record and took his team to two back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

Kill noted Allen’s winning tradition and feels that he is a great addition to the Saluki Athletics family.

Coach Allen is a tremendous hire for us,” Kill said. “His resume speaks for itself. He has a great track record of building a winner at every place he’s been.”

The idea of helping to build a new program excites Allen, and he is confident that he can help turn Saluki Volleyball around.

“Building is something I take a lot of enjoyment in,” Allen said. “I’ve had the opportunity to take over four programs that needed that, and it excites me probably as much as anything.” 

Coach Allen has experience turning programs around after doing so with the Crimson Tide.

When he arrived at Alabama, the team hadn’t had a winning season in seven years, but after leaving, Allen had coached the team into a winning records, only losing one season, and two of the team’s five NCAA Tournament appearances.

“At Alabama, they’ve had five NCAA appearances, and he’s had two of them,” Kill said. “He’s had a ton of success, and he’s perfect for what we need for our program right now.”

Prior to Alabama, Tulsa was Allen’s first Division I coaching job, and he found plenty of success in the program.

He coached five seasons at Tulsa where he put up an overall record of 133-37 and during that time he became the fastest coach to reach 100 wins in school history.

Allen also led the Golden Hurricanes to a 20-0 conference record in 2010, two NCAA Tournament appearances, and won the conference’s Coach of the Year Award twice.

“I think the key to coaching a team to the tournament is having great athletes who are committed to excellence, and who come into the gym pushing themselves and their teammates,” Allen said. “These athletes would be selfless in how they approach the game.”

During his time at Tulsa, Allen worked with the now Saluki Senior Woman Administrator, Liz Jarnigan when she was an Associate AD for the Golden Hurricanes.

Allen revealed that both Jarnigan and Kill’s positions at SIU were large influencers in his decision to accept the job at SIU. 

“I took the job here because I had the opportunity to work for an athletic director like Jerry Kill who has coached before and the opportunity to work with Liz Jarnigan again who supervised my sport at the University of Tulsa,” Allen said. “She did a great job supporting our program when I was there, and I know she’s going to do exactly that here and give us an opportunity to win.”

Jarnigan stated how excited she was to be working with Allen again and commended his coaching style.

“I’m thrilled to work with Ed again,” Jarnigan said. “His high standards in the classroom and on the court, as well as his work ethic, make him a great fit for our athletic department as we grow our championship culture.”

SIU’s newest hire indeed comes with a culture of winning as he’s had 26 winning seasons in his 27 years as a head coach.

The new head coach is not only looking to coach the Dawgs to a winning season, he’s also looking to win championships in the process.

“The Missouri Valley Conference has a great history and an excellent national reputation, and I look forward to building a program that can compete for conference championships,” Allen said.

Jarnigan is putting her confidence in Allen’s reputation and record in hopes that he is able to turn the SIU Volleyball team around.

“His record speaks for itself, for sure.” Jarnigan said. “I’ve been able to see first-hand how he can turn programs around and make them winners in a hurry.”

As for strategy in turning the team around, Allen plans to be as supportive as he can to better the players and by trying to be the best coach he can be everyday.

“I think about how I can be the best coach to those players,” Allen said. “The ability to support them and create a good structure for them is important.”

This job doesn’t come with a lack of challenges and the new Saluki coach explained that the toughest part of the job for him has been setting standards for his girls.

“I would say the toughest part has been setting a standard of excellence that is going to allow us to be successful,” Allen said. “We want to be better every time we take the floor.”

Coach Allen has high goals for his team’s progress both on and off the court.

“I want us to compete to win,” Allen said. “I also want to see a team that continues to grow as the season develops. I think we should be selfless and commit to excellence everyday whether it’s in the classroom, in practice, or in friendships.”

Senior setter Alayna Martin explained how Coach Allen has helped her to become a better leader.

“I have grown a lot as a leader since he’s been here,” Martin said. “He’s taught me about being a good person that people will follow to get things done.”

Jarnigan feels that these standards and values are what make Allen a great coach.

“He is one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with,” Jarnigan said. “I’m just in awe, and respect him so much for the standards and values he embodies and instills in the programs that he leads.” 

Martin has been experiencing Allen’s coaching first hand this year and finds that she’s seen positive changes in the team and practices.

“Since Coach Allen has been here, practices have been more productive and everyone works a lot harder,” Martin said. “Everyone is more attentive, and we just get a lot more done. Ultimately, that’s going to lead to us becoming better players and help us in the season.”

As the first game is approaching swiftly, Allen has been focusing heavily on passing with his team in order to improve their offensive efforts.

“Passing the ball has been the focus this year,” Allen said. “We want to limit our number of aces or zero passes on the floor. We’re working on our ability to take care of the ball offensive because generally speaking, the team that commits the fewest amount of errors wins the match. We want to apply pressure to the other side.”

Martin echoed this when she was asked about the teams focus for this season.

“We put a big emphasis on serve receive passing because if we can serve receive well, we can run the offense,” Martin said. “We really want to buckle down on that so we can run a good offense with the hitters we have.”

As far as strengths, Allen feels that his team is very diverse on offense and can serve the ball well.

“I think a lot of times we serve the ball really well,” Allen said. “We have a group that allows flexibility between positions because we have depth. A lot of people can contribute in terms of attackers.”

When he isn’t in Davies gym coaching the team, Allen spends his time outdoors, which is one of the things he likes most about Carbondale.

“The lakes and the outdoor environment are my favorite thing about Carbondale,” Allen said. “I’m an outdoor person, and I love spending time on the lake and fishing. Carbondale is a relaxed environment, but it’s still a chance to be apart of big time athletics within a small community.”

You can watch Coach Allen and the Salukis on Friday, Sept. 6, starting at 12:30 p.m. and a second game at 7:30 p.m. The games will be held in the Banterra Bank Center.

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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