Virtue Michigan

Virtue in a hurdle with the Wolverines during one of the team's non-conference matches (Photo: Michigan)

Most of the buzz during the Big Ten women’s volleyball offseason revolves around incoming freshmen and potential transfers between programs, but Michigan made the headlines a few months back with the hiring of Erin Virtue to its vacant head coach position.

An assistant coach with the United States women’s national team, Virtue has one Olympic gold medal and three Volleyball Nations League titles and is bringing a different perspective to the Wolverines at the start of the season.

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The new Michigan coach has been with the American national team for five years and, working under head coach Karch Kiraly, has been directly involved with most of the squad’s main victories during the period, also helping the team take silver at the 2019 FIVB World Cup.


Virtue (second from left to right) with the American coaching staff after their victory at the VNL 2021

The fact that Virtue also has a strong background in collegiate volleyball, having played for Illinois and worked as an assistant coach for Loyola Chicago, Cincinnati, Michigan and Northwestern, gives her a well-diversified profile, which excites the players.

“I think it’s a really special thing that only we can speak to, walking into an office and looking to your left and seeing a gold medal on the wall,” senior outside hitter Allison Jacobs said. “That’s not something that no one else in the Big Ten or in NCAA volleyball, other than one school now, can say. And I think that just speaks to how amazing she is not only as a coach but also as a person, where she’s able to get to that stage and be successful at the highest level. For anyone on the outside but also in our program, it comes with an automatic respect where like you know this girl knows what she’s talking about, and you can tell when you’re in practice that she knows what she’s talking about, and it’s really fun to learn from her.”

In her first experience as a head coach, the 40-year-old Virtue arrived on a team that finished ninth in the last season and didn’t have much time to work with her squad until the end of the summer due to her commitments with the USA women’s national team.

The goal for her first season, she says, is to show consistent progress and make sure the program is headed in the right direction.

“When I first met the group, I asked them what they wanted and the most common answer was that they wanted to improve and that they wanted to be great,” Virtue commented. “The DNA of this team is that they want to improve and I was brought in to develop this group. In every facet, I want to see growth and we’ll see where it takes us. We have a very different group and I think that fans are going to see a different Michigan than they saw last year.”

The start of the Erin Virtue era at Michigan had some ups and downs and two wins in the first seven matches. The Wolverines will try to improve their record this weekend, when they face Bowling Green in road and home matches on Friday and Sunday, respectively. The second encounter, set to begin at 14:00 local time (18:00 UTC), will be streamed live for VBTV subscribers around the world.

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