Championship Drive: AU Volleyball Alumna Rises to the Top at Marian University
BY ZACH WADLEY ’14
4 MIN. READ
Oftentimes, college graduates can easily credit their professional success to their college education. Other times, when life throws us unexpected curveballs for which there’s no playbook, it’s easy to feel unprepared.
For Anderson University graduate Riley Anderson ’17 (pictured left), this is true. Her volleyball coaching career began with a curveball for which she didn’t feel prepared — yet she still found success on the other side.
Anderson, who studied accounting at AU, played four seasons of volleyball for the Ravens, serving as a team captain and twice earning All-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honorable mention honors. Now, she works full time at Messer Construction in Indianapolis, Indiana, as a project accounting manager. Within her role, she handles the accounting on different construction projects ranging from owner billings to monthly cost reporting, as well as leading the accounting team from a regional perspective.
But that’s just her day job.
By night, she’s assistant coach for the Marian University volleyball team, where she’s entering her third season on head coach Ashlee Pritchard’s staff. In two short years, Anderson has collected an NAIA national championship, a Crossroads League title, and was named to the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association 30 Under 30 list.
Anderson got more than she bargained for in her first season on the bench. Pritchard, who was pregnant at the time of Anderson’s hire, would be missing games in the middle of the season due to maternity leave. The Marian Knights were 19-1 overall when Anderson took over as the acting head coach. Her first assignment? A match against third-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University, the only team that had beaten Marian to that point.
Anderson led Marian to a four-set victory and went 13-0 as the acting head coach, which also included a Crossroads League Tournament quarterfinal win.
“I was actually not aware that Ashlee was going to be taking maternity leave until I called her about the position a few weeks before the season started,” said Anderson. “Although I had head coaching experience at the high school level, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous. I have so much respect for Ashlee and the program at Marian, so it was a bit overwhelming knowing the shoes that I had to fill for eight weeks.”
However, just because she stepped into the head coaching role didn’t mean she left her day job behind. Anderson still worked at Messer from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week before heading to Marian for practices or games. When she returned home for the night, she would work on the next day’s practice or game plan.
Pritchard returned for the Crossroads League Tournament semifinal match, and Marian then entered the NAIA Tournament as the 11 seed. The Knights reeled off seven straight wins, including four over top 10 opponents, and won the program’s first national championship.
“It’s an experience that no one can ever take away from the coaches and players, and I feel so blessed to have been a part of such a special season,” said Anderson.
At a time when Anderson wasn’t actively looking for a college position, she was alerted to the job opening at Marian by her former AU head coach, Tami Miller. It’s just one of the ways AU has contributed to her coaching career.
“Since high school, I knew that I wanted to be a coach,” Anderson said. “I loved the sport too much to not be a part of it after I graduated. The connections that I made at AU helped me land my first club coaching role, and Coach Miller is the reason that I have the Marian position today.”
Anderson added, “At AU, there were many times recruits came to campus for visits and I was able to either house them for an overnight visit or spend time talking about their recruiting process and future plans. I think that those experiences have helped me understand the recruiting process from a player’s perspective, which has helped in my current coaching role.”
Beyond coaching, though, Anderson found the experience she was looking for at AU. She met her husband, Brett, a former basketball player who is now in medical school at Marian, made lifelong friends, grew in her faith, and received an education that has helped her in the workplace.
Though unsure of what the future holds, Anderson looks forward to continuing to grow as a coach, and hopes to stay with Marian in Indianapolis and coach volleyball as long as she can.
Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.