The Plattsburgh State volleyball team has found its new coach, and for many of the Cardinals, he is a coach who needs no introduction.
It was announced June 19 that Matt Lein, who served as an assistant coach for PSUC from 2014-2016, would replace former head coach Jake Bluhm, who left to join the coaching staff at Division I’s Fordham University.
“From the moment I got [to Plattsburgh], I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Lein said. “I fell in love with the town, I fell in love with the school, and I fell in love with the people.”
PSUC Director of Athletics Michael Howard said Lein was hired after an “extensive selection process” that included interviews with head coaches and assistant coaches of several other collegiate programs.
A member of the team was on the selection committee.
Howard was not at PSUC during the last volleyball head coach search, but understands that the school didn’t attract many applicants. Howard said this time was different.
“We received countless applications,and we were really pleased with the quality of [the applicant pool],” Howard said. “It was a really good search process.”
Lein, who coached Siena College’s club volleyball team in 2017 while his fiancée purused a law degree, said it was an easy decision to apply for the PSUC vacancy.
“She was born and raised in Plattsburgh, and we knew we wanted to eventually end up in Plattsburgh,” Lein said. “Once the position opened, we both knew I had to go for it.”
That connection to the Plattsburgh community was a key factor in the decision to hire Lein.
“One of my priorities going into the search process was to find someone that was passionate about Plattsburgh, was invested in the campus and the community and saw themself being here for the longer term,” Howard said. “He certainly presented himself that way.”
While Lein will benefit from having coached or recruited many of the returning players, Howard emphasized the value Lein’s familiarity with locations where PSUC has had success finding recruits as well.
Even before moving back to Plattsburgh, Lein has already begun recruiting and is seeking one or two more players to add to the Cards’ 2018 roster.
“At this point I’m trying to use my connections from around the country to see if there’s anybody still looking for a place to play this fall.”
Lein rejoins a program coming off a 6-21 campaign, and will look to turn that around as soon as he can.
The program’s last winning season came in 2013.
“Six and 21 is obviously not where I would like to be,” Lein said. “From what I know of the returners and some of the incoming freshmen, I think there is the potential to be much better than that.”
Howard hired Lein in part because of their shared expectations for the future of the volleyball program.
“We are very anxious to get the program completely rebuilt and reloaded to the point that we can get ourselves into the SUNYAC playoffs and then be a consistent figure in the SUNYAC,” Howard said.
Howard said the goal is the same for all sports at PSUC, regardless of their current performance.
“When you have a losing record for a few years, there tends to be a thought process that the college or the athletic director cares less about that sport,” Howard said. “My priority is that I want all of our programs to be equally successful.”
While Howard recognized the turnaround will take gradual year-to-year improvement, he believes the pieces are in place for success.
“We have had some talented players, but we just haven’t found a way to make that gel as a team,” Howard said. “From my perspective, that’s a big part of what we are looking for with the right coach.”
Lein’s attempt to make a cohesive team out of his players will benefit from the coach’s background in mental health.
Since leaving Plattsburgh, Lein earned a master’s degree in mental health counseling. Lein believes this will help him to identify why a player is underperforming and to help that player achieve their potential.
“I would like to be a coach as well as a mentor,” Lein said.
On the court, Lein is planning to experiment to find the best use of the players available to achieve some success in the short term.
“I know we’ve got a lot of middles coming in this year,” Lein said. “I’ve already talked to a couple of them about potentially working a little bit on the pins, because that is where our depth is lacking at the moment.”
While PSUC will have a new head coach, returning assistant coach Jordynne Ales, who played during Lein’s previous tenure, will provide some consistency in the Cards’ fitness program.
“Jordynne was a great member of the Cardinal volleyball team while I was there,” Lein said. “I’m going to rely on her pretty heavily for the strength and conditioning portion of the program.”
Howard believes the two coaches will be a great fit, in part because of their different personalities. In particular, Howard feels Lein will differ from his generally quiet predecessor.
“You have to have two coaches that balance each other,” Howard said. “I think the girls can expect that their head coach will probably show a lot more emotion than they are used to seeing.”
That emotion stems from the philosophy on success that Lein brings to PSUC as their new head coach.
“Everybody likes to win, and I’m no different,” Lein said. “But I want to make sure we are having fun while we are winning.”