When new assistant volleyball coach Krista Vansant pulled into Bloomington for the first time, something was different. It must be noted she has lived on the West Coast her entire life. It almost came as a shock to Vansant.
“I didn’t hit any traffic on the way here,” Vansant said. “That makes me really happy.”
For any west coaster, coming to the Midwest is a change of pace. She leaves behind her family, lifelong memories and a program at Washington where she made a name for herself. Vansant said there’s really just one thing she’ll miss.
“Not the weather in Seattle because it’s not that much better,” Vansant said. “I’ll miss being close with my family. It’s a bit more of a trek out here. Other than that, the weather isn’t that much different from Seattle, it’s just a little colder.”
Something else that’s new for Vansant is the journey she now begins in Bloomington. She arrives in Indiana after a career that saw her accomplish nearly everything there is to accomplish in collegiate volleyball. She’s stepping outside of her comfort zone.
The Redlands, California native comes to Indiana from the University of Washington where she was a two-time Honda Award winner and 2013 National Player of the Year. She recently had her No. 16 jersey retired at Washington, as well.
Then in her first international tournament, Vansant was named MVP and best outside spiker at the 2015 Pan American Cup and led Team USA a gold medal.
Humility, grit and excellence.
Krista Vansant is forever in the rafters. #KV16 pic.twitter.com/RSecnU1FQ9
— UW Volleyball (@UWVolleyball) November 9, 2017
Now she will be trying out something new from just outside of the lines.
“I had a wonderful career and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Vansant said. “That’s why I wanted to get into coaching because I want to make sure other student athletes have the same experience I did.”
Coming to Indiana
Getting Vansant to Indiana was a bit of a coup for recently hired Indiana volleyball coach Steve Aird.
Aird said he coached against Vansant in his past days at Maryland. He called her a nightmare to match up against. But that’s part of the reason why she is now on his staff.
“When he was at Maryland, Washington, where I was at, played against Maryland so I kind of got to know him then,” Vansant said.
As time went on, they got to know each other a little bit better. Aird said his former director of operations at Maryland is good friends with Vansant and he got to know her better over the last six to eight months because of that relationship.
Vansant came out to Maryland to see Washington play in College Park when the Huskies played there last September. Then he said they spent more time at the Final Four. Something felt like it was percolating.
“When I heard he was coming here (Bloomington), I reached out and said ‘hey, if something works out, please let me know,’” Vansant said. “When one of the assistants from Maryland said she didn’t want to come, he called me right away and said ‘you might want to come down, I think you’ll really like it.’”
It obviously worked out getting her to Bloomington. Aird said she was the “ideal candidate” and said he was really excited in getting her to come.
“It was kind of both ends reached out to each other,” Vansant said. “I was like, ‘hey, I’m ready, whenever you want, I’ll come see it.’ It kind of just worked out from there.”
⚪️ 2X National Player of the Year
? USA Volleyball National Team
⚪️ Pan Am Cup MVP
? 2X Honda Award Winner
Welcome Assistant Coach Krista Vansant @kristaaaa16
? https://t.co/O3IcUpouhD#GoIU #IUVB ⚪️ ? pic.twitter.com/t7hffmAx07
— Indiana Volleyball (@IndianaVB) January 26, 2018
Vansant's Coaching Roots
With this being Vansant’s first coaching job, she doesn’t have much prior experience to lean on. What she does have, however, is a trail of coaches that she has learned from.
Keegan Cook took the head-coaching job at Washington after the 2015 season. He had been on the staff for the previous two seasons for former Washington coach Jim McLaughlin. That is where Vansant first met Cook. From there Cook became someone who Vansant looks up to.
“I grew up a lot with him,” Vansant said. “He forced me to grow up really quick, maturity wise. Without him I don’t think I’d be the person I am today. I think I can attest a lot of my personality and stuff I learned from him.”
At Washington, she became a legend. There are only a few numbers retired in the University’s athletic history. Yet, she is one of them. She left a mark on that program and that will never change.
A historic career. Take a look back at some of Krista Vansant's signature matches as a Husky before we honor her tonight.#KV16
>> https://t.co/jrh5LqC4A9 pic.twitter.com/M4TGUmddgq
— Washington Athletics (@UWAthletics) November 8, 2017
The success she experienced in Seattle made it seem like a place she’d never leave. But she felt a change of heart.
“Towards the end of last year I said I would have to leave because at first I said ‘I want to be here, this is my place,’” Vansant said. “At the end of that, I thought it might be good for me to go somewhere and learn something new somewhere else.”
Her evolution at Washington has been something to see. Cook mentioned that her relationship with the program changed over time. She was the top recruit in her class and she backed that up with a career that is hard to match.
“The number of ways she contributed to this program has grown throughout, close to a 10-year process,” Cook said. “It’s a lot of hours and time and energy. Really hard to quantify that and explain to people what that level of commitment really is.”
Cook described Vansant as loyal. Cook said she is loyal to the pursuit of the team and loyal to what is most important. But maybe the most impressive trait about Vansant is another word Cook used to describe her.
“One of the words that comes to mind is humility,” Cook said. “For someone who is as talented and skilled and accomplished as her, the level of humility she displays shows in all parts of her day. It’s rare to see someone who is as good as she is, really just have this deep sense of humility.”
Players like Vansant don’t come around often. She spent so much time at Washington and left such a mark on that program. She accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish in a collegiate career.
That success will be hard to replicate. It’s an Indiana program experiencing a transformation and she is a core piece of that under Aird.
“At Washington they are fairly successful and I want to bring some of that here to lift up this program,” Vansant said.
A New Beginning
There is no doubt Indiana volleyball has been down for the past few seasons. The last time they made the NCAA Tournament was in 2010.
But with the new arena being constructed along with a new coaching staff, things are looking up for a program that has been anything but. With the addition of Vansant, that’s a step in the right direction.
There is finally hype around this program and that was part of the pitch from Aird to Vansant. She didn’t know much about Indiana before coming other than they have been towards the bottom of the Big Ten recently.
“I knew Steve had been telling me about this new facility that they were going to build,” Vansant said. “I think the amount of support I have seen of other sports around here from the student body, from the athletic department and the city in general, really drew me.”
Prior to Aird’s arrival, there hadn’t been buzz about the program in and around Bloomington. Now all of a sudden, people are seeing Aird’s passion and enthusiasm for what he wants to do with the IU volleyball program.
When he meshed that up with Vansant’s background, they found it was a good match. Aird said it was important for the team to have a strong, successful, female staff member who has done everything that the players are looking to do with the addition of Vansant.
A special night on Montlake. #KV16 pic.twitter.com/PQZF3mYw2M
— Washington Athletics (@UWAthletics) November 9, 2017
Aird said the players were excited and happy based on his background and what he can bring to the table. But when they found out about Vansant, the team had double the excitement.
“This is now a place where elite talent want to be and want to build,” Aird said. “For the players it was like, ‘okay, now we have someone who is a household name in our sport and one of the best players in the country.’ For them, it was a statement hire and someone who they are really excited about.”
As things get started, Vansant said she wants to let Aird get things going and then feel out where she can fit into the equation. She has coached club volleyball before and said she can be hands on.
Vansant has succeeded so much in her volleyball career. Now in Bloomington, it’s a chance for her to make a name for herself in a different capacity. In the end, Aird, Vansant and the players will be judged for the results on the court, but what happens off the court is equally as important to her.
Gone are the days of sitting in Seattle traffic for Vansant. She’s now in Bloomington and ready to get going with Indiana volleyball.
“Obviously, the place is different, but we can still improve the experience and help the kids learn and get better,” Vansant said. “Not just on the volleyball court, but in life.”