Head volleyball coach achieves 100th win

Head volleyball coach achieves 100th win
Head volleyball coach Jennifer Jacobs watches the women's volleyball team play. Photo by GoAugie.

Augustana’s head women’s volleyball coach recorded her 100th career win after the Vikings defeated Minot State University 3-0 on Oct. 21. 

Jennifer Jacobs said earning her 100th win would not have been possible without the team, including current players and alumni.

“The milestone really has nothing to do with me,” Jacobs said. “It has everything to do with the dedication and hard work of the players, the assistant coaches and everyone else who supports the program on and off the court.”

During the game, Jacob’s impending milestone wasn’t on her mind. 

“We were coming off a tough loss,” Jacob said. “I wasn’t exactly focused on the milestone. We all just really wanted the team to perform.” 

Prior to taking down Minot State University, the Vikings fell 3-0 to the University of Mary. 

Jacobs started playing volleyball in the eighth grade. In 2000, she enrolled at Minnesota State University-Mankato, where she set a number of records on the volleyball court. With 1,623 digs, she held a career record at MSU. 

During her time as an undergraduate student at MSU, Jacobs also coached club volleyball. She continued coaching club and high school volleyball after graduating. 

“I think the toughest thing between being a coach and a player is that as a coach, we are no longer on the court to physically make a play,” Jacobs said. “As a coach, taking a step back, we can give the team the best scout plan ever, train the best in practices, do all the drills that will get us ready, but at the end of the day, it's the players who have to perform and execute.” 

In 2012, Jacobs secured her first collegiate coaching job when she was hired as the assistant athletics director and assistant volleyball coach at Augsburg University in Minneapolis.

When the women’s volleyball head coach position opened at Augustana in December 2016, Slade Larschied, the previous athletic director, reached out to Jacobs. Initially, Jacobs was not planning to leave Augsburg. 

After the interview process, however, she found she enjoyed her experience at the university. By March 2017, Jacobs was the Vikings’ 10th head women’s volleyball coach. 

“There were just some good connections to Augustana, so it felt right when I ultimately decided to take the job offer,” Jacobs said.

Head football coach Jerry Olszewski was on the coaching staff at MSU while Jacobs was a student there. Head baseball coach Tim Huber graduated from MSU in 2001, one year into Jacob’s undergraduate career. 

Now, Jacobs is in her seventh season of coaching Vikings volleyball. 

From 2017 to 2022, Jacobs and the team earned a record of 92-58, placing her winning percentage over .500. Last season, three players secured NSIC First Team All-Conference Honors and Erika Bute, then a senior, received the title of NSIC Libero of the Year. 

“Let me tell you, we are lucky to get to coach these women,” Jacobs said. “They are the most fascinating individuals. They are bright, caring, competitive, driven women, and each of them is specially unique in their own way. Being around them daily makes me a better person. Seeing them interact with our daughter makes me a better mom, and I am just so blessed to have them all in my life.” 

After spending a number of years coaching at Augustana, Jacobs said it is difficult to choose just one favorite memory. 

“I think each season there are special moments — electrifying wins and heartbreaking losses,” Jacobs said. “But I think for this year in particular, it has been watching the team experience big setbacks, in teammate injuries, and figure out how to regroup and continue to battle together through this gauntlet of a conference.”

Bute said she has enjoyed her time playing on the team with the guidance of Jacobs. 

“Our team is very close,” Bute said. “[The team has a] family-like atmosphere.”

Senior Callie Hohenhaus agreed with Bute’s sentiment, adding that there is an openness between the team and Jacobs. 

“Everything is very transparent between the coaching staff and us,” Hohenhaus said. 

According to Jacobs, the role of a coach is much more than instructing athletes in their sport: it intersects with being a mentor and a role model. 

“We spend so much time together,” Jacobs said. “We get to know [the players] on a personal and professional level, and I think good coaches let players get to know themselves as well. I absolutely love seeing the growth between when players come in as freshmen and graduate.”

As Jacobs and the team look ahead to the end of the season, she said they are determined to leave their best on the court. 

“As we get down to the later half of the season, we have a lot of seniors on the squad,” Jacobs said. “Seniors want to win. They will put everything on the line to win, so we’ve been leaning into their grit and determination as well.”

The Vikings will take on St. Cloud State University on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. in the Elmen Center before the NSIC tournament begins on Nov. 17.