Matters Looks to Lead Redbirds to Further Success, Officially Named Eighth Head Coach in ISU Volleyball History
Written by Mikey Fornelli on March 14, 2022
NORMAL Ill.- Monday afternoon, Redbird volleyball’s new leader made it clear to all that she is ready to dream big.
When asked about her goals entering her first season as Illinois State’s new head coach, Allie Matters wasted no time before answering in six simple words-
“We’re going to win a championship.”
Her players, seated among the fans, media, family and university employees watching on at the Hancock Stadium club, loudly cheered their approval. Coming off three-straight Missouri Valley Conference tournament championships, the Redbirds know how it feels to win- and so does their new coach.
Matters comes to Illinois State following a successful playing and coaching career at Seton Hall, and most recently a decorated four-year run at Wright State. Carrying three Horizon League championships and two NCAA tournament appearances on her resume as she joins the Illinois State program, Matters has even larger plans as a Redbird.
“We will be gritty, passionate, and competitive as hell.” Matters said, “we’re going to play aggressive but smart offensively and work to raise our volleyball IQ. Our defense will frustrate opponents. We will be confident, humble, and treat every opponent with respect. Redbird volleyball will continue to be a program that you are proud of, I promise you that.”
Matters, holding a brand-new red jersey awarded to her by ISU Athletic Director Kyle Brennan, showed Monday just how passionate she is about being a coach and a leader in women’s collegiate athletics.
“This is not a job,” Matters said. “Coaching is a role, it’s a passion. It’s who I am, and I truly believe it is what I was called to do. It’s mentorship, understanding, and empathy…Illinois State has made a commitment to women’s sports for over fifty years. If you are asking me ‘Why Illinois State,’ then that is why.”
Through every statement, Matters was supported with cheers and applause from her entire Redbird team. Although they had just met Allie days before, they too can see just how ready she is to help them grow and battle for a fourth-straight conference title. Junior Sarah Kushner summed up her team’s attitude toward getting back to practice with their new coach.
“It went great,” Kushner said on meeting Matters. “She has a lot of energy and we just vibed with her right away. I’m super excited to get to know her more, and establish our new values and what we want to get out of our senior year and what we leave for our teammates. We’ve been waiting so long to get practice going, and I’m just excited that Kaity [Weimerskirch], our other two seniors and I are all together for this.”
Junior Kaity Weimerskirch, when asked about comparisons of former Redbird Head Coach Leah Johnson and Coach Matters, shared that while she is grateful for what she learned from Johnson, she is excited about new opportunities with Matters.
“They are very different but will have some similarities.” Weimerskirch said, “I’m excited to see what Allie brings to the team and learning some new stuff will be refreshing and will help us out a lot.
“Change is what makes you grow,” added Kushner.
From her previous experiences as a student-athlete and coach, Matters knows how important relationships are between coaches and their players. From day one, she plans to strive to get the best out of her players not just as athletes, but as people.
“The most important part of my coaching philosophy is relationships,” Matters said. “I don’t think you can coach someone until you know what motivates them, what scares them, and what they love most about the game. I have a responsibility to my young women to encourage them and lead them. This is a responsibility I do not take lightly. We see our student-athletes at their highest, their lowest, and it’s just such an amazing relationship. They were dying to get to know me, and I was the same with them.”
Just like the Redbirds team she now leads, Allie Matters is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament. She even has a one-up on ISU’s success under Leah Johnson, with not just multiple national tournament appearances but also a first-round sweep win over Samford in April 2021. Inheriting a Redbird team with the talent and experience to make another run to the tournament, Matters knows that confidence is key.
“It’s about maintaining that type of stage, so when you get there, you’re a little less nervous every single time.” Matters said on her time at Wright State, “the second time we went [to the NCAA Tournament], it was significantly easier than the first. The third will be easier. We will have that swagger, that confidence, and act like we’ve been there before.”
The Redbirds will have their first official practice led by Coach Matters next week, the very first of many on the way for a successful program ready to redefine itself ahead of a chance for a fourth-straight MVC tournament title and a fifth-straight national tournament.