Indiana Volleyball held the banquet for the 2011 season on Sunday.
Sherry Dunbar, a Ball State University graduate and Indiana native, has established a track record of success both as a player and a coach. Entering her sixth season at the helm of the Hoosier Volleyball program, she has a career winning percentage of .646 (194-106). The Hoosiers have won at least one non-conference tournament in each of Dunbar's five seasons and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2010 NCAA Tournament for the best finish in school history.
In that magical 2010 season, the Hoosiers made their first NCAA Tournament appearance under Dunbar, and the team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in program history, finishing the season with a record of 23-12. The Hoosiers took down eventual national champion Penn State in a 3-1 thriller in Bloomington, knocking off the Nittany Lions for the first time in program history. IU hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, scoring wins over Tennessee and Miami in front of sold-out raucous crowds at University Gymnasium.
The 2011 season proved to be a rebuilding year for the Hoosiers with the loss of Jordan Haverly for to a knee injury, but the team provided glimpses of a bright future ahead. Dunbar mentored Samantha Thrower to a national record performance against Buffalo. Thrower recorded 15 kills on 15 swings, tying the national record for hitting percentage with 15 or more swings. Another record-breaking performance came from senior Caitlin Cox, who broke IU's all-time record for career digs, overtaking Juli Pierce's record against Gonzaga. The Hoosiers took non-conference tournament titles at both home tourneys, winning the Hoosier Classic and the IU Classic. Dunbar witnessed her team battle back from down 0-2 for a big senior-night victory over Iowa, sending off the class of 2011 in style.
It took Dunbar just over two years to convert a program which won a lone Big Ten match in the season prior to her arrival, into a team on the national radar. The 2009 season saw Indiana receive votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association's Coaches Top-25 Poll, rising as high as No. 39 in the country. The Hoosiers narrowly missed out on a trip to NCAAs.
In 2008, Dunbar's program took a big step with a 17-15 record that put them on the brink of an NCAA Tournament berth. Marquee wins included: a season sweep of perennial power Wisconsin, an adidas Classic title-clinching win over BIG EAST Tournament Champion Louisville and the five-set triumph over #13 Minnesota.
Dunbar and her staff have brought in highly-touted recruiting classes in recent years, including a class ranked No. 22 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com in 2009. Even more impressive, those rankings did not include transfers such as IU's Haverly who was a top-20 recruit coming out of high school and had four years of eligibility remaining as a Hoosier after initially starting at Nebraska. For 2011, the Hoosiers signed another stellar class that included PrepVolleyball.com All-American Colleen Smith, from the top-ranked team in the nation, Cary-Grove (Ill.) High School. The 2012 class includes Under Armor All-American Katie Gallagher and AAU All-American Amelia Anderson.
Dunbar's player development capabilities have also become quite evident in her first four years directing the IU Hoosiers. Several all-time school records have been set the past three seasons.
Ashley Benson, Cox, Pierce and Erica Short each completed their careers atop a career statistical category. Under Dunbar's tutelage, Pierce became IU's all-time digs queen while Short did the same for kills. Also, Pierce broke the record for most digs in a single season in 2007. Caitlin Cox set a new single-season mark for digs in 2009 and 2010, besting Pierce's previous record with 488 digs in 2009 and then 513 in 2010. Cox then knocked Pierce out of the top spot in the career digs category in 2011, meaning Dunbar has overseen the two best liberos in IU history in her five years at IU. Short fell just one kill shy of setting the best single-season mark as a senior.
Then there's Benson. She pulverized the IU all-time record books in 2010, setting new marks for career blocks, career hitting efficiency, single-season blocks and single-season hitting efficiency. Not only did Benson break a pair of career records, but she separated herself substantially from second-best. Her .339 attacking clip is 49 points higher than second place (.290) and she has distanced herself by 108 blocks with a four-year total of 629 total blocks.
Speaking of Benson, she became the first All-American in school history, earning third team honors in 2009 and first team honors in 2010, marking Coach Dunbar's second player to earn national recognition as Short was a All-America honorable mention in '08.
Benson and Short were then able to take their game to the next level under the watchful eye of Coach Dunbar. Benson earned a spot on the U.S. Women's National A2 Team for two years and will begin her professional career after finishing her degree in the Fall of 2011 while Short recently played in Spain for her third season of professional volleyball.
In 2007, Dunbar wasted little time elevating the Indiana volleyball program to new heights. She led the Hoosiers to more Big Ten victories in her first season alone than the previous three seasons combined. Success in the non-conference schedule was aplenty as well, evidenced by Dunbar directing the Hoosiers to the finals of all four preseason tournaments in `07, including a tournament crown at the Valparaiso Popcorn Classic.
Hoosier Nation also witnessed Lauren Ditteon become Indiana's first All-Big Ten selection since 2004 under the guidance of Coach Dunbar.
As the head coach at the College of Charleston, Dunbar compiled an overall record of 113-22 (.837), with four Southern Conference regular season titles, three Southern Conference Tournament titles and three trips to the NCAA Regionals (2004-06), advancing to the second round in 2005. It marked the SoCon's first volleyball team to ever win an NCAA Tournament match. She collected SoCon Coach of the Year honors in 2003 and 2005 while earning honorable mention for the Collegiate Volleyball Update (CVU.com) Coach of the Year award in 2005.
In 2006, the Cougars compiled a 27-8 record en route to their third straight NCAA trip. Four players earned all-conference honors, and CofC earned both the Southern Conference Libero and Freshman of the Year awards.
That success came on the heels of a 2005 season that saw the College of Charleston post a school-best 32-2 record and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars posted the third-best winning percentage in the nation, with their only losses coming to a pair of ranked teams. Dunbar's team finished a perfect 18-0 in conference play, losing only three sets in those matches, and extended its league winning streak to 33 matches.
Dunbar led the Cougars to a 26-6 record overall and a 15-1 mark in the SoCon in 2004. CofC earned a trip to the NCAAs before falling to defending national champion Southern California in the first round.
In her first campaign as head coach, College of Charleston closed out the 2003 season with a 28-6 overall mark, a 17-1 league record and the first of four straight SoCon titles.
Dunbar's teams have had an equally impressive record in the classroom. The Cougars earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award three straight seasons from 2003-05. In addition, Dunbar has coached a CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team selection and a CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Second Team honoree. Hoosiers have earned Academic All-Big Ten laurels 26 times during her first four years at IU.
Before her arrival in Charleston, Dunbar spent six seasons as an assistant at Tennessee, where she was involved in recruiting, scouting, practice planning and community outreach programs. At the conference level, she served as the SEC representative for the NCAA Assistant Volleyball Coaches Committee. During her tenure as an assistant at Tennessee, the Volunteers produced 35 All-SEC Academic Award honorees, 14 All-SEC Awards and three All-Region honors. The team also earned an NCAA Tournament bid in 2000.
Before joining the Lady Vols, Dunbar spent four years in a similar role at the University of San Francisco under Head Coach Karin Wallenstein, while also serving as the school's assistant compliance director. Her coaching duties included working with the middle blockers as well as scouting, recruiting and overseeing individual player training. Among her top pupils was Chiara Lawrence, who broke the Dons' single-season blocks record in 1995.
Born in Fontana, Calif., Dunbar's family moved to Ellettsville, Ind., when she was three years old. While playing at Edgewood High School, she was coached by Wallenstein, then an assistant at EHS. When Wallenstein was named head coach at USF in 1993, she named Dunbar her first assistant. Dunbar's talents for coaching middle blockers can be traced back to her days as a standout at that position at Ball State. The 6-foot-2 Dunbar finished her career at BSU as the program's all-time blocks leader. She also appears among the top 10 in the Cardinals' record book in hitting percentage and kills. A four-year starter, Dunbar was named to the Ball State All-Decade squad and earned all-conference honors as a junior.
She earned a bachelor's degree from Ball State in 1992 and completed a master's in sports and fitness management at the University of San Francisco in 1996.