Steve Rupe, the winningest and longest-serving volleyball coach in Whitworth history, has announced his resignation from the position to focus on his teaching career and family.
"After 14 great years here my wife and I decided it was time to move in a different direction with our lives," Rupe said. "I am not sure what that is yet, but I know that God will guide us. I am very excited to be able to spend more time with my wife and young boys and enjoy this time with them."
Rupe was named the Northwest Conference Coach of the Year three times (2001, 2002, 2010) and AVCA Regional Coach of the Year once (2005). He posted more volleyball wins than any coach in school history with a record of 213-150 (.587) over his 14 seasons. Under his direction, the Pirates earned five NWC titles and made five NCAA Division III tournament appearances.
Whitworth came within one game of reaching the NCAA Division III volleyball finals (Elite Eight) on two different occasions, first in 2002 and again in 2005, reaching the West Region championship match.
"First and foremost, I want to thank Steve for his 14 years of dedicated service to the university and our volleyball program," said Aaron Leetch, Whitworth's Director of Athletics. "Steve was able to provide stability to a program that had little prior to his arrival. We are thankful and applaud him for the numerous successes that he and the team achieved throughout his tenure. As he moves into this next chapter of his life, we wish him nothing but success."
In 1999 Rupe took over a team that had gone 3-20 in the midst of a midseason coaching change in 1998 and guided the Pirates to a conference title and national tournament appearance by his third season. He led that young 1999 Pirate team to an 11-14 overall record and an 8-8 record in the NWC, good for a fifth-place finish. Both records were the team's best since 1992. In his second season the Pirates improved to 17-8 overall and second in the Northwest Conference with a 12-4 mark. In 2001 Whitworth went 21-6 and earned a share of the NWC title and the league's automatic berth to the national tournament.
In 2002 the Pirates broke through with a 24-3 record, winning the NWC title outright. Whitworth defeated defending Division III champion La Verne in the NCAA tournament before falling to top-ranked Cal State-Hayward in the regional final. In 2005 Whitworth went 22-4 and rolled to the NWC title with a 15-1 record, eventually falling to La Verne in another regional championship match.
In 2010 he led Whitworth to its fourth NWC crown under his direction, and guided the Pirates to the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament. Along the way he surpassed Joanne Atwell-Scrivner (177-73) as the winningest coach in program history. Whitworth returned to the top of the conference and the NCAA Division III tournament in 2011.
In 2011 he guided the Pirates to a second straight Northwest Conference crown and the fifth overall under his direction. The team finished 10-13 overall and 6-10 in the NWC this past fall.
"I really want to thank Scott McQuilkin for giving a young coach his first opportunity way back in 1999," Rupe said of Whitworth's former Director of Athletics. "He took a chance on an unknown and I would like to think that it worked out really well for the university."
Whitworth hosted the NCAA Division III West Regional twice in Rupe's tenure, in 2002 and 2005. Each time the Pirates have advanced to the regional title game. In addition, Whitworth volleyball led NCAA Division III schools in attendance both of those years.
Rupe coached three different players to AVCA First Team All-American honors: Julie Weatherred in 2001, Natalie Danielson in 2005 and Kaimi Rocha in 2011. Whitworth had only had one other First Team volleyball All-American prior to his arrival. Those same three players were also selected as NWC Players of the Year. During his 14 seasons Rupe had nine different players earn First Team All-NWC honors and another 13 were Second Team All-NWC.
Rupe will continue his career as a full-time middle school teacher in the Mead School District.