This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s women’s volleyball coach pushes the team to make school history.
When the final ball hit the floor in their match against Marquette, it meant their season had come to a close. It also signaled that HPU’s women’s volleyball team had done it — they had made school history.
With the close of the season, they became the first team to win both the Big South regular season and tournament titles in the same season since the program began.
These accomplishments came under new leadership.
Ryan Meek was named the head coach of the High Point University volleyball team in January 2018, becoming the 12th head coach in the volleyball program’s history.
Meek came to HPU after spending two seasons as the recruiting coordinator at Creighton University under head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth, a three-time National Coach of the Year. While he was with the Bluejays, they went 55-14, including a trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals in 2016.
Prior to his time at Creighton, he was the head coach at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, where he compiled a 110-64 record over five seasons. He garnered National Coach of the Year honors at the NCAA Division III level by the American Volleyball Coaches Association in 2015 after finishing with a 29-9 record and a trip to the national semifinals. He was also named Southern Athletic Association Coach of the Year twice and helped the Warriors win their first SAA regular season and tournament titles.
“There’s no substitute for head coaching experience,” Meek said. “My five years at Hendrix helped prepare me for some of the challenges we faced this season and helped me develop my persona in the gym. Having already had five years as a head coach gave me a head start for when I arrived here in February. I was able to jump right in and get started.”
Meek was a standout player in high school in his home state of California. He started as an outside hitter, but moved to setter his senior year. He earned a scholarship as a setter and continued his playing career at Quincy University and Moorpark College.
“Having played all positions except middle helps because I have been in the same situations as our players,” Meek described. “I’m not speaking from the point of view of one position, but from having played all over the court. Obviously, as a setter, I tend to think more offensively, but having the background as a passer and defender helps me there too.”
Meek led the Panthers to a 21-10 overall record and a 14-2 Big South mark. The outcome? A record-setting season for the program.
“My immediate thoughts are how proud I am of this group,” Meek explained. “Winning the conference regular season and tournament is a difficult task, and we competed toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in the country. I also realize how much of an opportunity for growth there is in this program. We have so much to sell as a program from the academics, campus, support and winning tradition that I can’t wait to see the next steps we take in our progress as a program.”
The volleyball program played in its third-straight NCAA Tournament as it traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to play Marquette in November of last year.
“Going to three straight NCAA Tournaments helps our program in national attention and perception,” Meek continued. “Hopefully some doors open in recruiting that may not have been open before, and as our brand as a school and program continue to grow, we see the benefits. From a current program perspective, I think it helps our confidence. Only about 10 percent of schools nationally have been to the last three tournaments, and we’re one of them. I think there’s still a bit of a hill left to climb in our heads about where we fit in nationally, but being in three straight NCAA Tournaments and playing tough opponents in pre-season helps close that gap.”
High Point led the conference hitting percentage, assists, opponent assists, kills and opponent kills under Meek’s direction. Senior Molly Livingston was named Big South Player of the Year and was an AVCA All-Southeast Region honorable mention, while sophomore Abby Bottomley garnered All-Big South first-team honors. Livingston led the Big South in hitting percentage, while Bottomley was top in the conference in digs per set.
Senior Jordan Hefner was named Second-Team All-Big South, senior Katie Tylman earned honorable mention and All-Academic team honors, and freshman Madison Smith received a spot on the All-Freshman Team.
Six seniors graduate from the program this season, but Meek has confidence in his returners and incoming freshmen to pick up where the 2018 season left off.
“Losing the six seniors is going to leave a huge hole,” Meek said. “They are the most successful class of players to go through High Point University volleyball, so you can’t just snap your fingers and replace them. With that said, we have a stellar recruiting class lined up and some great returners, and we’re excited to keep building our legacy as a program.”
Meek will continue to set high goals for his team as he moves forward in his role of head coach of the HPU volleyball team.
“Our goal is to continue to grow and get better,” Meek explained. “We’re continuing to accomplish things this program never has. We want to keep building on it by striving to be the best we can be on and off the court!”