By sitting on the bench, Mike Schall realized he wanted to be a coach.
As a former volleyball player at Penn State, he fell in love with the behind-the-scenes processes of coaching and preparing a team. After graduating in 1994, Schall began his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater and was a part of the Nittany Lions team that won the 1999 NCAA title. After Schall left Penn State, the players he helped recruit went on to win four straight NCAA titles.
After serving as an assistant coach at UNC for the past five seasons, Schall replaced recently-retired Joe Sagula, who had been North Carolina's head coach for 33 years and racked up seven ACC Championships in the process. As the winningest volleyball coach in ACC history, Sagula left his assistant some pretty big shoes to fill.
Sagula always advised his players and assistants to be true to themselves, which is something Schall said he is keeping in mind as he takes over the program. One of the responsibilities he's looking forward to is being a guiding figure for his players as they progress throughout college.
“This period in their lives, it's a time where there are so many opportunities to grow," Schall said. "And I enjoy conversations that facilitate that growth."
Junior middle hitter Kaya Merkler is no stranger to Schall's coaching style. Schall is the former director at Triangle Volleyball Club in Apex, N.C., the same club Merkler played for growing up.
Merkler, who started all 29 games and led the team in blocks last season, said Schall "is still pretty much the same."
“When I heard that he was going to be the new assistant, I was overjoyed," Merkler said. "I was so thrilled that I get to play for him again."
Now, with Schall as the head coach, Merkler said "it's the beginning of a (new) era" for UNC volleyball.