A look back at 17 years of Houston Volleyball in C-USA
University of Houston volleyball coach Bill Walton is no stranger to success entering his 24th season with the Cougars. Walton, the longest tenured coach at UH, has led the Cougars to 449 victories and 119 Conference USA wins.
Walton has been a permanent fixture in the consistent success and longevity of the Houston volleyball program. In fact, Walton has averaged just under 20 wins per season and put together a stretch of 17 consecutive winning seasons from 1986 to 2002. The Cougars also earned bids to 12 consecutive postseasons from 1989 to 2000 (11 NCAA's & 1 NIVC) under Walton.
Walton's career spans 28 seasons, where he has put together one of the best records of any Division I coach. He picked up his 600th career victory against East Carolina on October 22, 2005, becoming the 11th coach in NCAA history to reach that feat. He currently stands just outside of the NCAA Top 10 in career victories for Division I active coaches at 659-351(.653).
A teacher of the game, Walton has produced 63 All-Conference players (41 C-USA and 22 SWC) in addition to 27 All-Region selections. He coached 1994 AVCA All-America and Olympic Festival participant Lilly Denoon and has placed at least one player on an All-Conference team in 21 consecutive seasons (1987-2008).
Last season, Walton guided the Cougars to a 20-12 overall mark and a 10-6 record in league play for a fourth place finish. Houston surpassed the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2000 and the 14th time with coach Walton at the helm.
Justine Famer and Lucy Charuk ended the season being named to the AVCA All-South Region Team, while earning AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honor.
Farmer ended her career at Houston as the all-time school leader in kills (2,145), attack attempts (5.821) and games (475). Her 1,568 career digs also rank third most in program history.
With her 140 block assists during her sophomore campaign, Charuk set the single-season record for block assists and finished with 158 total blocks for the fourth highest in single-season history.
The duo was named to the Conference USA First Team and Ingrida Zauere was selected to the All-Freshman team, marking the second consecutive season a Cougar volleyball player was named to the team and the third time in four years.
In 2007, Walton coached Farmer to her second-consecutive All-C-USA First Team selection, in addition to being name to the AVCA All-South Region Team.
Walton also guided Hannah Sullivan to being named to the C-USA All Freshman Team, making her the first Cougar named to the team since Farmer earned the honor in 2005. She finished the year leading the team in service aces (40) and was second in kills (304).
Walton produced a pair of Conference USA selections in 2006, led by Farmer. Her 645 kills were second-most in program history for a single-season, while her 4.85 kills per game were 16th nationally. Farmer paced C-USA with 26 double-doubles en route to a All-Conference First-Team selection.
Walton's program also produced Jaci Gonzalez, who was the 2004 and 2005 C-USA Defensive Player of Year. Gonzalez, a San Antonio Alamo volleyball club product, finished her career third in NCAA history, compiling 2,451 career digs.
Walton led the program to its first NCAA Tournament in 1989 and also captured the 1990 National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) title, often referred to as the "Volleyball NIT." At that championship, Houston defended its No.1 seed, storming through the 20-team field knocking off Tennessee, Colorado, Memphis and Cal-State Northridge along the way to a 6-0 record.
Before the Cougars joined C-USA in 1996, Walton secured a spot as one of the top volleyball coaches in Southwest Conference history. He earned SWC Coach of the Year honors twice in 1992 and 1994.
Walton's 1994 Cougars racked up a 26-7 record en route to the SWC regular season and tournament title. Houston was the only team in the league's 14-year history to dethrone Texas from the regular-season title. Houston knocked off Clemson and Florida before falling to UCLA in the NCAA Elite Eight. The Cougars loss to the Bruins put Houston one win shy from going to the program's first Final Four since the 1970s.
Houston enjoys its headline status as an elite volleyball member of Conference USA winning the C-USA Tournament in 1997 and finishing as the regular season co-champions in 1999 as Michelle Frazier won C-USA Co-Player of the Year. Houston has reached the semifinals of the conference tournament in nine of its 13 seasons as a league member.
The Cougars also were regulars in the regional rankings by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) and were the No. 1 team in its region several times throughout the late 1990s. During the 1999 season, Walton picked up his 500th career win against Memphis.
In addition to tremendous success on the court, Walton's high standards for his program carry over into academics, character and taking a role in the University community. His teams have proven to be every bit as strong academically, earning NCAA national and regional Academic All-America awards as well as selections to the C-USA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll.
Millicent Martin and Kelsey King won 2006-07 C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medals, while Gonzalez was named to the 2005 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team. Both Martin and King were C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medal winners in 2007-08, while King was named to the C-USA All-Academic team in 2007.
Walton came to Houston in 1986 from Elmhurst College in Illinois, where he compiled a 210-55 record. He led the Blue Jays to the 1983 and 1985 NCAA Division III National Championship. In his first year as head coach at Elmhurst, Walton took a team with a .500 record the previous season to an Illinois State Championship and a No. 4 finish in the final AIAW-College Championships.
Walton began his volleyball career after originally attending George Williams College to play basketball. After his freshman season, a roommate convinced him to try volleyball. Walton, who is still often mistaken for the former NBA star who shares his name, quickly picked up the sport of volleyball and became a two-time NAIA All-American.
Walton led George Williams to the national title in 1974 and his outstanding play gained him berths on the 1976 United States America's Cup Team and the 1979 United States National Team, which he left shortly after to take a head coaching position at Elmhurst.
Following graduation from George Williams, Walton was a volunteer assistant coach at Cincinnati, where he earned a master's degree in education. He arrived at Elmhurst in 1979 as an instructor in the physical education department, earned his first volleyball head coaching job at the school in 1981 and soon began climbing his way to the top.
An impressive career that started with a "casual challenge" from his roommate in college. However, if you know Walton, there are no "casual challenges." Whether it's the big match, team academics, or a daily drill in practice, Walton shows his players that accepting challenges and adhering to responsibility is a way to achieve success.
Walton has set himself apart from the first two coaches at Houston as the only volleyball coach to capture a conference championship, and is responsible for 449 of the program's 830 victories since 1974.