As an institution and a program that fervently emphasizes the concept of a student-athlete, UC Davis represents a perfect fit for head coach Stephanie Hawbecker, now entering her sixth year in the Aggie program.
"I believe that student-athletes should put their families first, academic performances second, their volleyball performances third, and the social aspects of their lives fourth. The head coach has a strong role in guiding a student-athlete as she develops priorities.
"The 100 percent graduation rate achieved by my student-athletes indicates we've done things the right way," Hawbecker added. "My job is to educate - to see that a student-athlete is a better person because of her experience at UC Davis."
During her first four years in the Aggie program, the women's volleyball team GPA has improved significantly, boasting the highest mark among all UC Davis teams in the spring of 2004. Her teams have earned a composite GPA of better than 3.0 in each of the last 10 consecutive quarters.
On the court, Hawbecker brings the same high level of intensity, stressing the fundamentals of the game and the accountability of the players to the team's overall success. In her first season at the helm, Hawbecker led the 2000 Aggies to an 18-14 record and a 12-10 mark in the tough California Collegiate Athletic Association, improving on the previous year's conference record by six wins.
With UC Davis now competing among its future league-mates in the Big West Conference, the standard of excellence sought by the veteran coach has been raised. However, Hawbecker's insistence that her teams play tenacious, hard-nosed volleyball, and her emphasis on process over results remains unchanged.
"Our chemistry and competitive demeanor dictates how well we do," she says. "We want to know, did you play as hard as you could? Were you focused? Did you follow the gameplan? Good things happen over time when you do that.
"Every time I shake hands with an opposing coach, I want them to say that we played harder than any team they have ever faced."
Hawbecker's philosophy as a coach has brought her a fine record of success. She arrived at UC Davis after a nine-year career at Virginia Tech, where she became the school's all-time winningest volleyball coach with a 166-134 record.
While in Blacksburg, Hawbecker enjoyed three 20-win seasons with the Hokies, including a school-record 26-11 season in 1992. That year, Virginia Tech shared the Metro Conference title and earned the Steve Lowe Award for team excellence, inspiration and fair play at the prestigious National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
For her part, Hawbecker was named Metro Conference Coach of the Year and Division I Coach of the Year by the Virginia sports information directors.
Hawbecker guided the Hokies to a 21-9 season in 1995 and again in 1998.
Off the court, the scholastic achievements of her players were exemplary. Hawbecker coached six academic all-conference winners, including 1992 GTE Academic All-American of the Year Lisa Pikalek.
UC Davis represents Hawbecker's first foray on the West, where the interest in volleyball is highly prominent.
As a recruiter, Hawbecker looks for the same kind of student-athlete who will share her work ethic on and off the court. Her goal is to establish a strong rapport with academically established high schools and clubs to attract elite students to UC Davis.
Hawbecker originally hails from Naperville, Ill., just outside the Windy City. She attended Illinois State, earning her bachelor's degree in physical education in 1983.
As an undergrad, she played four years of volleyball, starting her last two. As a senior, she helped the Redbirds to a berth in the NCAA Tournament. She stayed on at ISU as a graduate assistant coach and earned her master's degree in 1985.
Hawbecker then left her home state to serve as assistant coach at Southwest Missouri State from 1985 to 1987. During that time, she also was the director of the Springfield Juniors Volleyball Club.
She joined the staff at Wisconsin as the top assistant from 1987 to 1991, helping guide the Badgers to the Big Ten Championships in 1990. Her experience there led her to Virginia Tech in 1991, where she assumed her first position as head coach.