Now in her ninth season at Rice (2012), Genny Volpe has established the Owl volleyball program as a power in the Southwest. The Owls, with Volpe as head coach, have now been to three NCAA championships (2004, 2008, and 2009), the only three appearances in Rice's history.
The 2011 edition saw Rice with an 18-13 overall mark and a 13-7 second-place record in Conference USA. The Owls also produced AVCA All-America Honorable Mentions junior Nancy Cole and redshirt-sophomore Megan Murphy. Cole was a first-team All-C-USA honoree, while Murphy was a second-team pick. Freshman Jillian Humphrey was selected to the All-C-USA Freshman squad.
In 2010, Rice featured AVCA All-America Honorable Mentions in senior Tracey Lam and sophomore Nancy Cole. Lam also earned her second straight Conference USA Libéro of the Year in being named All-C-USA First. Cole, with junior Ashleigh McCord were selected to the All-C-USA Second Team.
During the 2009 season, the Owls won their first-ever conference championship when they defeated Tulsa 3-2, to earn Conference USA's NCAA automatic bid. Rice also sported a final RPI ranking of 37, its highest ever, out of 330 institutions, to lead C-USA. In 2009, Rice produced the C-USA Setter of the Year in Meredith Schamun and the C-USA Libéro of the Year in Tracey Lam. Those two along with Ashleigh McCord and Natalie Bogan were All-C-USA First Team selections as well as AVCA All-America Honorable Mentions. Volpe also collected match victory number 100 with a 3-1 win at UAB on Sept. 28, 2009.
In 2008, Rice posted a 23-7 overall record, while winning a school-record 12 of 16 matches in C-USA play that placed them third in the standings, their highest finish to date. The Owls also cleaned up several C-USA awards. Tracey Lam was named as the league's Libero of the Year, while Karyn Morgan, Meredith Schamun, and Natalie Bogan were selected to the C-USA First Team. Lam and Jessica Holderness were named to the C-USA Second Team, while Ashleigh McCord made the C-USA All-Freshman Team.
The 2007 season, was one filled with highlights. Sophomore Natalie Bogan earned AVCA Honorable Mention All-America accolades, becoming only the third Owl in school history to recognized nationally by the AVCA. Bogan was also named to the All-Conference USA second team as was Jessica Holderness. Earning spots on the 2007 C-USA All-Freshman Team were Caroline Gill and Tracey Lam.
In 2006, Volpe faced one of her toughest challenges as a coach as an already young team (only one senior and three freshmen in the starting lineup), battled inexperience and injury through out the season. Despite finishing the year 12-19 in which 10 losses came in five-set decisions, the Owls posted numerous impressive highlights during the year. In September, Rice stunned then No. 21 Arizona on the Wildcats home court with a 30-28, 22-30, 30-23, 17-30, 15-13 victory. The win marked the Owls third ever against a ranked foe, and second under Volpe's tutelage.
During the course of the season, senior Tessa Kuykendall became Rice's all-time block leader, finishing her career with 546. She also finished with a career hitting percentage of .286, ranking third-best in program history. Kuykendall added a third-straight all-conference honor to her resume as she was named to the all-Conference USA second team. Junior Yvette Kirk shattered the Rice record for digs in a season with 569 as the Owls posted a record 2,353 digs over the course of the year. Sophomore Karyn Morgan and freshman Jennifer McClean both recorded more than 400 digs, while Morgan also became just the fourth player in Rice history to post at least 400 kills and 400 digs in a singles season (finishing with 440 kills and 420 digs). Finally, newcomer Natalie Bogan was named to the C-USA all freshman team after her stellar debut.
After losing four starters, including three-all-Western Athletic Conference honorees, Volpe's young charges stepped up for her as Rice moved to Conference USA. Over the year, the Owls secured wins against NCAA-bound Duke and Sacramento State, and twice rallied from two-games down for victories on the way to securing a winning season with a 17-12 record. As the team grew over the course of the season, Volpe's upper classmen opened a lot of eyes on their way to making school history. Olaya Pazo and Kristina Hoban along with Kuykendall all received AVCA all-region recognition, with Pazo moving on to receive AVCA all-America honorable mention. She was just the second Rice player ever to be nationally honored, while the trio more than doubled the total number of all-region honorees in the history of the program. Just as stellar off the court, Pazo, Hoban and Kuykendall also received CoSIDA Academic All-District VI honors.
In her first season at Rice, Volpe coached the Owls to a 25-5 overall record and the team's first ever NCAA tournament appearance. Volpe's squad finished the season with marks in the top 30 nationally in assists per game, blocks per game, kills per game, and hitting percentage. The Owls were ranked 15th in the nation in assists and kills, recording 15.54 assists per game and 16.9 kills per game. Even more impressive is the fact that the Owls were competitive with the very best teams in the nation, taking then third-ranked Hawaii to four games on the Wahine's home court and forcing a fifth game against then top-ranked Minnesota.
Prior to the 2004 season, only eight Owls had ever been named to the All-WAC team, but in 2004 six Owls received All-WAC honors. Rebecca Pazo, Olaya Pazo, Hoban, and Kuykendall were named to the first team and Lindsay Carter and Rebecca Kainz were selected for the second team. Rebecca Pazo was also an AVCA all-region honorable mention recipient, the first Rice player to receive this honor since 1995. Kuykendall was fifth in the nation in blocks with 1.74 blocks per game.
Volpe spent the three seasons prior to her arrival at Rice as an assistant coach at Texas A&M, where the Aggies tallied a 70-26 overall record and appeared in the NCAA tournament each season. Texas A&M went 23-10 in 2003 and advanced to the NCAA regional semifinal where the Aggies lost to eventual national champion USC. The Aggies finished the 2003 season ranked 16th in the final American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll, and tied for third in the Big 12 with a 13-7 conference record.
The Aggies' 2001 season, Volpe's first as an A&M assistant, was special for the San Antonio native not only because she was returning to her alma mater or because A&M continued its succession of NCAA appearances that began her senior year, but also because one of her protégés, setter Jenna Moscovic, became only the second Aggie in A&M volleyball history to earn first-team all-America honors from the AVCA. In addition, A&M ended the season ranked second in the nation in both assists and kills per game.
Prior to Volpe's three years in College Station she was at Southern Methodist University, where she served as the first assistant coach and recruiting coordinator when the volleyball program began in 1996. After posting a 7-24 record in their inaugural season, the Mustangs went 15-19 in 1997, winning their quadrant in the Western Athletic Conference and qualifying for the WAC tournament. In only its fourth year of existence, the SMU volleyball team achieved its first 20-win season, going 20-13 and placing an all-time high fourth in the conference standings.
This is actually Volpe's second coaching stint at Rice, as she spent the 1995 season as an assistant under Henry Chen. She helped direct the Owls to their first postseason bid as they were selected to play in the NIVC tournament. Prior to her earlier days at Rice, Volpe served as student assistant coach under the Corbellis at A&M in 1994 as the Aggies made their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and advanced to the second round.
An all-around talented athlete, Volpe was a four-year letterwinner as a setter and outside hitter at Texas A&M from 1990-93. She quickly developed into one of the best defensive players in the Southwest Conference and led the Aggies in digs for three consecutive seasons. A two-year team captain, Volpe capped her stellar A&M playing career by leading the Aggies to a 27-8 record and the second round of the NCAA tournament her senior season.
Volpe's name is still scattered throughout the A&M record books and she remains the Aggie all-time record holder for most matches played (140) and most games played (488). In addition, she is ranked third in career digs (1,403), seventh in career service aces (123) and eighth in career assists (2,309).
A member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, she is beginning her fifth term as a member of the AVCA top 25 poll. She served as the Conference USA coaches chair for volleyball for two years (2005-06). As such she worked with the league office on issues pertaining to volleyball, led coaches meetings, and assured her peers remained informed concerning C-USA rules and regulations. She also serves as a Coaches Mentor for the AVCA, mentoring a high school or club coach that signs up through the AVCA.
While competing in the 2002, USA volleyball national tournament, she was named to the all-tournament after leading Texas Advantage to a third-place finish at the USA Volleyball Open Women's AA Gold Division national championship. Volpe also was named all-tournament in 2000, as her team captured the Women's AA Gold Division national title, and in 1997, she was named All-American first team at the U.S. Open tournament after her team finished runner-up in the Women's Open Gold Division.
Volpe received a bachelor's degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M in 1995 and a master's degree in liberal arts from SMU in 1999. Genny and her husband John Volpe have a son, John Joseph (7), and a daughter, Alice Marie (4).