Ashmore got the job and helmed the squad for the next decade. It was only the third varsity sport for IU South Bend (after men’s and women’s basketball), but Ashmore was able to lead the group to immediate success, highlighted by three appearances in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) tournament finals and three NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship berths.
Derdzinski was along for the entire ride, because Ashmore asked her to serve as an assistant coach after she graduated in 2010. Although Ashmore agreed last year to take a new job coaching at her alma mater, Grand Valley State, the transition could not have been more amicable. The 2021 season was unique: Ashmore moved to Grand Rapids to be at her new school and to have her second baby with husband (and fellow volleyball expert) Adam Rykse. Rykse himself, however, stayed in South Bend with their first child and served in the meantime as interim Titans coach. After that year, it was obvious that Derdzinski should take over the head-coach position.
Her duties extend well beyond drills and schemes. A lot of it has to do with marshaling energies amid a packed schedule. Sometimes, the team will have a morning practice after getting back to town late at night after a road game. Even in those tiring circumstances, Derdzinski is full of enthusiasm. During one such practice after getting home in the wee hours after facing Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, the coach was still giddy about the performance of one of her star players – “Abby Seeger got 24 kills last night. Nobody does that!” – and still tough on her squad, who had to run a full practice on short rest.
The players find time to read and study on the bus, and they have proven that the sports activities have not detracted from their academic work. The team’s combined GPA of 3.54 netted them a spot on the 2021 NAIA Scholar Team Award list. Several of the players also participate in the Reading Buddies Mentorship Program, reading with first graders for 30-minute sessions once a week at Marshall Traditional School.