Winning three national championships at Washington University in St. Louis and becoming just the fifth coach in NCAA history to eclipse 1,000 career victories, head women's volleyball coach Rich Luenemann has cemented his status as one of the best coaches in the nation.
Last season, Luenemann's team finished with a 31-4 mark overall after advancing to the NCAA Regional Championship match for the 21st season in a row. The Bears had three players earn All-America honors, including the fourth-straight accolades for setter Marilee Fisher and libero Kelly Pang.
In 2011, Luenemann guided the Bears to a 34-2 record, which included setting an NCAA Division III record with 63 straight sets won to open the season. Washington U. captured its 20th University Athletic Association (UAA) championship in program history by rallying from a 0-2 deficit to defeat Emory University in five sets in the title match. Luenemann received his fifth UAA Coaching Staff of the Year honors overall and led the Bears to the NCAA Regional Championship match.
Luenemann led Washington U. to a 35-4 overall record and a trip to the NCAA Division III semifinals in 2010. Along the way, he eclipsed 1,000-career wins, becoming just the fifth coach in NCAA history at all divisions to accomplish the feat. He boasts a career-record of 1,039-320 (.765) and a 449-58 (.886) mark at Washington University. Luenemann has been tabbed as the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III National Coach of the Year on three occassions (2003, 2007 and 2009).
After 23 seasons and 1,053 matches, Luenemann won his first national title in 2003. The Bears cruised through conference play, winning their 15th straight UAA championship. WU, which went 38-3, ended the season with a 28-match winning streak, culminating in a 3-0 triumph over conference rival New York University in the national championship match. It was the Bears’ Division-III record eighth title and their first since 1996.
Luenemann added another tier to his impressive resume when Washington U. defeated the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 3-2, to win the 2007 national championship, its Division III record ninth title. Luenemann's squad ended that year by winning 26 of its final 27 matches, finishing 33-5 overall.
His third triumph came just two years later, as the Bears trumped rival Juniata College, 3-1, in the 2009 national championship match, increasing the program's national championship tally to 10. The team featured three All-Americans and Washington U. had its first student-athlete in program history, libero Kelly Pang, earn AVCA Division III National Freshman of the Year honors.
He also guided Washington University to the national championship match in 2002, 2004 and 2006, winning a UAA Championship during each of those seasons. His 2002 squad posted a 41-2 record, which stands as his highest single-season win total at Washington U. In 2004 the Bears made their third-straight appearance in the NCAA Championship match, falling to Juniata College, 3-0. The 2006 team was 38-2, with its only two setbacks coming to eventual national champion Juniata.
In 2008, Luenemann led the Bears to a 32-7 overall record and their 19th UAA Championship. He earned UAA Coaching Staff of the Year honors for the fourth time in his career and AVCA Midwest Region Coach of the Year for the third time.
In 2005, the Bears opened the season with a 33-match winning streak, the third-longest streak in program history and the eighth-longest in Division III history. Furthermore, five student-athletes earned AVCA All-America accolades as WU finished with a 35-2 overall record.
In his first season in 1999, he coached the Bears to a 31-9 record and advanced to the NCAA Regionals. In 2000, Luenemann led the Bears to a 34-5 record and a NCAA third-place finish. Luenemann was rewarded for his efforts by being named South Region Coach of the Year. In 2001, he led the Bears to a 32-6 record and an appearance in the NCAA Quarterfinals.
During his 14 seasons at Washington University, Luenemann has won nine conference championships and made 14 postseason appearances (including six trips to the NCAA title match).
Luenemann, who was one of the most successful coaches in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) history, came to Washington U. from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill., where he compiled an 18-year record of 590-262 (.692) and coached the Fighting Saints to the NAIA Tournament seven times. Luenemann's most successful season came in 1990, when he posted a 37-11 record and led St. Francis to a fourth-place national finish. The Saints made their most recent post-season appearance in 1994, finishing fifth.
A 1996 inductee into the NAIA's Volleyball Hall of Fame, Luenemann currently ranks 19th among NAIA coaches in career victories, and his win total rated third among active NAIA coaches at the conclusion of the 1998 season. He was twice (1990, 1994) named the NAIA's Central Region Coach of the Year by the AVCA.
Luenemann coached 15 NAIA All-Americans at St. Francis and eight of his players were named NAIA Scholar-Athletes. His teams won at least 30 matches in a season 11 times, including a career-best 53-6 record in 1989.
An associate athletic director at St. Francis since 1986, Luenemann also won eight District 20 and six Bi-District titles. His 1994 squad captured the NAIA Great Lakes Region crown. A member of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Hall of Fame, Luenemann guided the Saints to 14 conference titles, including the last 13 in succession. He was named the league's coach of the year seven times (1984, 1986-88, 1990, 1994-95) and served as the chair of the CCAC's volleyball committee.
Active in the profession, Luenemann served two terms as the president of the National NAIA Volleyball Coaches Association, as well as a vice president's role. A member of the NAIA All-America selection committee and the NAIA national championship tournament selection committee, he also served on the selection committee for the 1990 U.S. Sports Festival at the University of Iowa.
The 60-year-old Luenemann coached freshman and sophomore baseball at Joliet East H.S. from 1975 to 1978 before he became an assistant coach with the renowned Windy City Volleyball Club in Chicago from 1979 to 1981. He also served three years as an assistant coach at St. Francis (1978-1980) before assuming the head coaching duties in 1981.