New coach hopes to have Eagles flying

Dan Fisher is the kind of guy who has gotten used to hitting the ground running. And coming to Concordia University as the school's new women's volleyball head coach, he's at it again.

Fisher has taken over the program from Kyle Kvasnicka, and the Eagles got their new coach a victory in their first match Thursday, sweeping Oklahoma Baptist in three games in the Cougar Classic at Azusa Pacific University. Concordia finished the season-opening tournament with two wins in three matches.

"People have been asking me, 'Are you nervous,' " Fisher said. "But I've been so busy I haven't had time to be nervous."

Now with a few days before the team's next match, Fisher can resume filling the shelves of his new office. Fisher was associate head coach for the University of Hawaii men's volleyball team, the season ending just a few months ago in the spring.

"Right when the season ended I interviewed for the job," Fisher said. "It happened pretty fast, I didn't have the full season cycle, with recruiting and everything.

"I'm moving from Hawaii and have a whole new staff. And my office had nothing in it."

Fisher, 35, has logged quite a few frequent flier miles since his college days at the University of the Pacific. He played for two years with the U.S. National Team, then played professionally in Europe, with stops in Belgium, Spain and Switzerland. He also played on the AVP Tour.

His coaching career started in Switzerland with a youth team, then continued at UOP and the University of San Francisco before he landed in Hawaii.

Why leave a Division I program like Hawaii for an NAIA school in Irvine?

"There are all kinds of factors, but it's primarily lifestyle and volleyball," Fisher said of his decision. "This job in volleyball circles is a very good job. I know people say, 'But you were in D-I,' but I'm sure if you talked to (Concordia Athletic Director) David Bireline, he'd tell you about the amount of quality applicants.

"We're in the toughest conference (Golden State Athletic Conference) in the NAIA, and it's a school that wants to win. For me personally, it's a chance to be a head coach and a chance to be close to family in Santa Barbara. It's a Lutheran school, and I'm Lutheran. There are a lot of reasons."

Since arriving, Fisher and his first-year assistants Trevor Johnson and Lindsey Campbell have taken a crash course on learning their roster.

Opposite hitter Brooke Marino was an All-American last year as a sophomore and returns for her junior season as one of Fisher's key players. Outside hitter Madison Ekis, who started as a freshman, is "on the verge of a breakthrough season," according to Fisher.

A top newcomer is Fei Gao, an outside hitter from China.

Incoming freshman Jenee Henderson will push junior Elizabeth Younglove for playing time at the setter position.

Reanna Schelhass, a freshman from Los Alamitos High, will have an opportunity to get playing time at middle blocker.

"In terms of personnel, I met some of the girls when I was in for my interview," Fisher said. "I got to know them more as people than athletes, which was good. We could establish a little bit of trust before we even got into the gym. Now, as a coaching staff, we're figuring out who the main girls will be, and we're in the process and developing roles."

Fisher's office might soon start to look like he's a little more settled in, but he says it's going to be a step-by-step process.

"This season is going to be a learning experience," he said. "The first thing is, we play a lot more games (in the NAIA than D-I). It's going to be a learning experience not only managing the group, but managing the season. I don't know if I'll feel I have it all figured out this year.

"But the girls are great. They work hard and they expect to win. And so do I."

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