There is no second guessing which direction Pitt volleyball head coach Chris Beerman has the program heading. Six years and 100 wins after he was hired prior to the 2000 season, the Panthers have made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, won a Big East title and have won numerous conference and regional honors. It all adds up to a resurgence in a program that is rich in volleyball history. Watch Beerman at work and it's easy to be overcome with an unmistakable optimism.
Point Pitt - Beerman jumps to his feet from a chair on the Panthers' bench, shouting words of approval. Point opponent - Beerman is up again but this time his words are instructional and encouraging, trying to will his team to regain the serve. It may be hard to tell by just looking at Beerman whether his team is winning or losing during the match but it's easy to understand how passionate he is about the game of volleyball and how eager he is to coach the sport.
Entering his seventh year at Pitt, Beerman completed a turnaround he set out to complete when he was hired two days before Christmas in 1999.
A runner-up in 2004 and the 2003 champions in the Big East Tournament, the Panthers have earned two NCAA berths since Beerman has been at the helm. Their advance into the 2004 NCAAs came from an at-large bid - the ultimate sign of respect for a volleyball team.
Pitt finished 17-13 in 2005 and tied for fourth in the Big East. The team had three All-Big East selections and senior Megan McGrane earned her second "Big East Libero of the Year" award and an AVCA All-America honorable mention. His team continued to re-write both the Pitt and NCAA record books as McGrane became the school's all-time leader in digs nearly 1,000 ahead of everyone else, and she ranked fourth among Division I players. Diana Andreyko tied the then Big-East record for kills and is leading the books with a record of eight service aces in a game. Nicole Taurence broke the Pitt freshman record with 69 assists in the five-set win over Rutgers.
Pitt won 26 games in 2004 and enjoyed its best winning percentage (.813) since finishing 32-6 in 1990, which was also the only other time the Panthers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers won the 2003 Big East championship with a 3-0 victory over defending champion Notre Dame at the Joyce Center in South Bend. It was the first time a Big East team had defeated the Fighting Irish on their home court -- ever. Beerman's team then advanced to its first NCAA Tournament since 1994 and defeated the Penn Quakers, 3-1, before falling to host Penn State in four games in the second round.
For his efforts, Beerman was named the Big East Co-Coach of the Year and the Tachikara/AVCA Northeast Region Coach of the Year by his peers.
"I consider this team an NCAA team now," Beerman said. "Once you get that first at-large berth, you have to think that way. You have to schedule your matches that way, and we have to play that way."
The revival of the program, though, began a year earlier. After injuries depleted the 2001 Panthers, the program suffered through its first losing season. Beerman led the 2002 team to a 20-9 overall record and a 9-4 mark in Big East play, tying for fourth in the conference. If not for an early season loss to Connecticut, the Panthers would have been playing in the Big East postseason tournament against two teams it defeated in the regular season.
In his first year as head coach in 2000, Beerman helped Pittsburgh to its best season in six years as the Panthers posted a 22-10 overall mark. In 2001, Pittsburgh finished just out of the postseason tournament with a 7-5 mark in conference play and a fifth-place standing.
That's a total of four 20-win seasons and a total of 100 wins in his five years at Pitt. Ten players have earned a total of 15 All-Big East honors from 2000-04.
Not only was Beerman's impact evident in the final standings, but the effect he has on the players as a whole is unmistakable. The Pittsburgh record books have been shattered with performance after performance. Megan Miller, Wendy Hatlestad, Sarah Rollman, Megan McGrane, Carrie Norris, Stacy Renick, Marcia Thiesen and Gini Ullery all thrived under Beerman, while current players Diana Andreyko and Nicole Taurence have already etched their names all over the Pitt record books.
In 2004, Miller was named the Big East's Most Valuable Player while Diana Andreyko was the conference and region Rookie of the Year. In 2003, Hatlestad was the Big East MVP, Miller earned Most Outstanding Player honors in the Big East Championships, and McGrane was named the inaugural Libero of the Year and claimed the award again in 2005.
Beerman, who is just the sixth coach in Pitt volleyball history, boasts a successful track record as both a player and coach. His background, coupled with an unbridled enthusiasm and energy, made him the perfect choice to lead the Panthers back into the national spotlight.
"I approached this from the very beginning as a building process," Beerman said. "We had to rebuild as a volleyball program when I got here in 2000 and we've been able to get positive results from that process.
"It's a totally different situation than it was here five years ago. We're entering into a reloading year. Even though we lost significant contributors to our run the past two years, we have the talent to continue making the NCAA Tournament and advancing further."
Beerman joined Pittsburgh after serving four seasons (1996-99) as head coach at James Madison University, where he led the Dukes to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and four straight winning seasons.
He guided the Dukes to a 90-36 overall record and a 35-7 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), which included an impressive 22-0 home record against conference foes. He led his teams to three 20-win seasons at JMU, including 1999's best-ever record of 26-7, which featured a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
In his first year at the helm of the Dukes in 1996, Beerman orchestrated the biggest turnaround of any NCAA team that season when he guided his squad to a 25-9 record after finishing 9-18 in the prior year.
At JMU, Beerman garnered two conference coach of the year awards (1998 and 1999), produced one CAA Player of the Year (1999) in Lindsay Collingwood, a pair of CAA Rookie of the Year honorees, nine first-team and five second-team selections, as well as five first-team all-state awards. Additionally, his teams captured two regular season CAA championships (1998 and 1999) and the 1999 tournament championship.
Prior to JMU, Beerman has had stints as an assistant coach at two of the universities joining the Big East Conference in 2005. He served one season (1995) as an assistant at the University of Louisville where he helped the team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and the Conference USA title.
Beerman also served three years as the assistant coach at the University of South Florida from 1991-94. While there, the Bulls were the 1993 Metro Conference champions and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament.
A standout player at Ball State from 1986-90, Beerman served as an assistant at his alma mater from 1990-91. As a collegiate player, he helped the Cardinals to three NCAA Final Four appearances and three Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) championships from 1988-90. He also was a two-time Volleyball Monthly All-America honoree and an All-MIVA selection.
Beerman holds eight records at Ball State, including 1,047 career digs, which ranks second all-time in the NCAA. He also holds school records for kills in a match (44 in 1989) and in a season (628 in 1990), games played in a season (134 in 1990), matches with 10 or more kills in a season (35 in 1990), matches with 10 or more digs in a career (43), digs per game career average (2.52) and total attempts in a season (1,310 in 1990). He ranks third on Ball State's all-time list for kills (1,777), and is second in matches with 10 or more kills (86) and total attempts (3,751).
The founder of the Valley Juniors Volleyball Club in Harrisonburg, Va., Beerman has served as head coach of several club programs, including the Kentuckiana Juniors Volleyball Association (1995), the Tampa Bay Juniors Volleyball Club (1992), as well as the South Florida (1991-93) and Ball State (1990-91) men's club volleyball teams.
Additionally, Beerman was a member of the bronze medal 1986 and 1987 Olympic Sports Festival teams as well as a member of the training team for the 1991 World University Games. A 1991 graduate of Ball State with a bachelor's degree in physical education, Beerman earned his master's degree in sports administration from Louisville in 1995.
Married to the former Mary-Beth Singleton, Beerman and his wife have two children, Kendall and Jackson.
BEERMAN'S COACHING HISTORY:
Pittsburgh, Head Coach, 2000-present [117-65]
James Madison, Head Coach, 1996-99 [90-36]
Louisville, Assistant Coach, 1995
South Florida, Assistant Coach, 1991-94
Ball State, Assistant Coach, 1990-91
Overall Record: 207-101