Aug. 27, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. - One victory from No. 700 in his collegiate career, Stanford women's volleyball coach John Dunning recalled this week how an ultimatum changed his life.
Dunning was content teaching high school calculus, and never felt a pull toward a career in anything else.
"I never would have left Fremont High School, ever," he said.
But his wife Julie felt something needed to change. John was coaching long hours after teaching a full load of classes, and trying to raise two young children. There wasn't enough of him to go around.
Dunning had never touched a volleyball, and knew nothing about it, until he was encouraged to take over as coach by some of his students who were on the team, in 1976. Dunning had been coaching the Indians' `C' and `D' basketball teams at the Sunnyvale school.
"I was just looking for something different," he said in a 2006 interview.
Unwilling to do anything less than immerse himself in the game, Dunning attended clinics, read books, talked with coaches, joined a rec team, and spent Sunday mornings playing two-on-two on a sand court at a friend's apartment complex.
In an era and a region without an organized club system, Dunning created and started his own, soliciting a sponsorship from Charlie Olson's cherry stand to launch Charlie's Volleyball Club in 1978.
Pretty soon, his club team was beating the likes of Stanford, San Jose State, Santa Clara and USF in spring leagues. Fremont won the 1980 state championship and the since-renamed Bay Club won the 1984 national title. Meanwhile, volleyball in the region began to boom, largely because of Dunning's influence.
It was around that time when a friend recommended that Dunning apply for the head coaching job at University of the Pacific. John wasn't sure if he was interested, prompting Julie's strong rebuke.
"You don't understand," she said. "You're coaching club and high school. You're teaching five classes -- that's 180 students. You're grading papers every night. And you've got two young children.
"You either try for that job, or you're quitting as a volleyball coach, because I can't take it anymore. So, make your hobby your job, or you won't have a hobby anymore."
Dunning admitted, "My wife is definitely the leader of the pack in my family."
In the 26 years since, Dunning has become one of the premier volleyball coaches in the nation. His teams at Pacific and Stanford have won four national titles. He entered the season ranked No. 4 among active Division I coaches in winning percentage (.826) and No. 6 in victories (699). And no one has reached more NCAA championship finals (nine) than Dunning.
Stanford was to open the season Friday night against Tulane in Albuquerque, N.M., with an opportunity for Dunning to collect a career milestone, one he never anticipated more than 25 years ago.
"I loved teaching," Dunning said. "It never crossed my mind to be a coach.
"I guess I got lucky."
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WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: The future is now
The difficulties the Stanford women's volleyball team faced in 2009 could pay dividends in 2010.
The Cardinal was hit hard by graduation and injuries last season, but fought through to capture its fourth consecutive Pacific-10 Conference championship by rallying from two sets down to beat Cal on the final day of the regular season.
"We learned a lot about ourselves," Dunning said. "We faced a lot of adversity and walked away with a Pac-10 championship. We learned how to fight."
Dunning saw how that determination carried over into off-season conditioning and found his Cardinal arrive on the first day of fall workouts in perhaps the best collective shape of any team in his 26 years of collegiate coaching.
"We know that nothing's handed to us," said versatile first-team All-America Cassidy Lichtman. "Everyone's really willing to work for it this year, and we're getting closer to where we want to be."
And where is that?
"We're going to win the national championship," Lichtman said without hesitation. "We're motivated to do whatever it takes."
Three senior All-Americans - Lichtman, Alix Klineman, and libero Gabi Ailes - comprise a core group of returning players, that also includes now-healthy sophomore setter Karissa Cook. They are joined by a recruiting class ranked No. 3 in the nation, featuring the Wopat twins, Carly and Sam, and high-flying local and national standout Rachel Williams out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose.
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WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Alix and the Ducks
In an effort to provide each player with optimal off-season conditioning, Dunning encouraged his players to train with elite athletes. Klineman, Stanford's 6-foot-4 outside hitter, took that to heart.
Klineman, through connections made by team strength and conditioning coach Devan McConnell, trained in Orange County with 20 members of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. Klineman was the only female.
Sometimes, Klineman admitted the situation forced her to toughen up a bit.
"I don't know anything about hockey, but it was interesting," Klineman said. "They definitely have a different mentality. One time, I wanted to sit down and the bench was so sweaty. I sat down anyway."
On the final day of the conditioning camp, Klineman found her workout sheet covered with little notes written by the hockey players, like, "Good job this summer," and "We love you," as well as an assortment of tiny hearts."
Perhaps it was with the Ducks in mind that the team selected a movie to watch together after training this week. It was "Miracle," the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.
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FOOTBALL: Camarillo meets Favre
Former Stanford walk-on Greg Camarillo should strengthen the Minnesota Vikings' depleted receiving corps after being acquired from the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday for cornerback Benny Sapp.
Camarillo said he was a fan of Brett Favre while growing up in Menlo Park, and now will be catching passes from him. The need developed because of a hip injury to Sidney Rice and the migraine headaches that have sidelined Percy Harvin.
"What more as a receiver could you ask for than to come play with that type of quarterback?" Camarillo told The Associated Press. "You have to elevate your game to match his game and he'll bring you along with him. It's a great opportunity."
Camarillo was targeted 73 times last season by the Dolphins and did not drop a pass, an impressive level of consistency that made him attractive to the Vikings.
"I've said it about a thousand times, a receiver by definition should receive," Minnesota coach Brad Childress said to AP. "He's got A-plus hands."
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FOOTBALL: Back in the game
Justin Armour, who caught 154 passes at Stanford from 1991-94 before embarking on a five-year NFL career, has taken over as head coach at his alma mater, Manitou Springs (Colo.) High.
Randy Fasani, Stanford's starting quarterback in 2000 and 2001, joined the staff at Ripon (Calif.) Christian High. Fasani played for the NFL's Carolina Panthers in 2002.
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MEN'S GOLF: Recruit plays well at U.S. Amateur
Stanford golfer David Chung has certainly made a national impact while advancing to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur, this after winning the Porter Cup and Western Amateur earlier this summer.
But Stanford coach Conrad Ray also must be delighted by the play of incoming freshman Patrick Rodgers of Avon, Ind., who was the only golfer in the U.S. Amateur field to shoot two rounds of under-70 in stroke play.
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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Fields signs with Knicks
The New York Knicks signed second-round draft pick Landry Fields, the breakout star of the 2009-10 Stanford team, to a two-year contract that will start off at a guaranteed $500,000 in the first season. The 6-foot-7 swingman averaged 22.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game for the Cardinal last season.
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TRACK AND FIELD: Jennings leads grass-roots program
Gabe Jennings, the former Stanford middle-distance star who ran the 1,500 meters for the United States in the 2000 Olympics, is the event director for a community-based track program in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.
The 20-event meet for all ages and all abilities at Hayward Field as part of "A Night at the Races." The event is intended to encourage those in the community to become active participants in a fun atmosphere, with events such as mixed gender relays, kids races, and a "Battle of the Sexes" in which the females get a one minute head start. Another former Stanford Olympian, 5,000-meter runner Ian Dobson, is expected to participate as well.
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TRACK AND FIELD: Rick Milam: 1944-2010
Rick Milam, a longtime USA Track and Field official who regularly worked meets at Stanford and was fixture at all levels of the sport in the Bay Area and beyond, died Monday. He had been battling cancer for much of the past year, and his poor health contributed to a traffic accident that ultimately claimed his life.
Milam had a deep understanding of the sport and its rules, and was a veritable sage to many. Milam, who was honored at the Stanford Invitational on March 27, will be greatly missed.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics
Ideas for future notebook items are welcomed. Please contact David Kiefer at email@example.com. Past editions of the weekly Cardinal Insider can be found on the of gostanford.com by clicking on "General Releases" from the "Inside Athletics" pull-down menu.