FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona head volleyball head coach Ken Murphy announced the hiring of Rachel Dunlap as assistant coach on Wednesday, providing a certified boost to the Lumberjack staff. Dunlap arrives at NAU following a year as a volunteer assistant coach at Yale this past season.
"A couple of thing stood out about Rachel during the interview process when speaking to her and those who have mentored her," Murphy said. "She's been coached and been around programs that have similar cultures to ours. The way that they interact with their athletes and the way they approach improvement within their programs were similar, and that was important to find someone like Rachel who fit who we are."
Dunlap's lone year at Yale – where she worked with the team's middle blockers and overall blocking schemes with their pin hitters – followed an impressive three-year playing career at Central Connecticut State. Over her final two seasons in 2013 and 2014, Dunlap was one of the country's elite middle blockers, ranking in the top 25 in blocks per set nationally. As a junior, Dunlap finished the year ranked sixth in the NCAA with a block average of 1.54 and totaled a program record 163 blocks – both of which led the Northeast Conference.
She followed that up with a 1.38 blocks per set average – 21st nationally – while posting career-highs in hitting percentage (.342), kills (253) and kills per set (2.43) as a senior. Dunlap once again led the NEC in blocks in addition to hitting percentage on her way to First Team All-Northeast Conference honors. She earned Second Team honors as a junior and overall was a nine-time NEC Defensive Player of the Week honoree.
"Rachel wants to be great and she's super detail-oriented," Murphy said. "You can tell how important it is to her to become a great coach and a true professional. For a younger coach, it's impressive to see how's attacked her career and put herself in a position to continue to move forward."
After graduating in 2015 from Central Connecticut State with her degree in exercise science, Dunlap proceeded to earn a tryout at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. where she was one of 232 athletes from 90 colleges and universities at the U.S. Women's National Team Open Tryouts.
Originally from Sonora, Calif., Dunlap would later play professionally in Iceland with Club Fylkir in 2015-16 before returning stateside to begin her collegiate coaching career at Yale. While in Iceland, she worked with the Iceland U16 National Team. This past season, she also served as the head coach for the as well as serving as the head coach for the Husky Volleyball Club 17 National team.
Her credentials will only help an NAU squad that has ranked in the top 50 nationally in blocks per set in each of the last three seasons, including a high of 10th following the 2014 campaign. The Lumberjacks return both of their starting middle blockers in the fall in redshirt sophomore Brittni Dorsey and reigning Big Sky Outstanding Freshman Abby Akin. Both players ranked in the top 10 of the conference in blocks, while Akin ranked second in hitting percentage a school record clip of .367.
"It feels great to move back towards the West Coast and I've been away for six years now," Dunlap said. "I'm super excited to join Coach Murphy and the championship culture that he has developed at NAU. I'm looking forward to working with the special student-athletes we have here who have the same championship drive that I have."