After parting ways with the winningest coach in program history before the 2019 season, it took over two months for Missouri State University to find a full-time replacement to lead its volleyball program. 

Steven McRoberts was announced as the university’s fourth permanent head coach in Missouri State volleyball history on Jan. 30. McRoberts was officially introduced to the media on Monday. 

“It’s exciting to be the new head coach,” McRoberts said. “Right now, things are moving 100 mph. We are getting a staff together. We still have a couple of positions we need to fill before the fall now that we have come in and seen the roster. 

“Springfield is a great town that I’ve been able to see so far. I’m ready to get started. Anytime you come into a new job like this you are raring to get going.”

The hiring

McRoberts took over for legendary coach Melissa Stokes, who resigned on Aug. 12, 2019, following an independent investigation that found NCAA violations occurred within the volleyball program. 

After Stokes’ departure, Manolo Concepción took over the team as the interim head coach. The Bears went 10-22 on the season for the worst finish in the program’s history, which snapped a streak of 19-consecutive winning seasons. 

McRoberts comes to Missouri State with 23 years of experience as a collegiate head coach, including 15 at the Division I level. He owns a 587-245 overall record with 21 winning seasons and 19 years with 20 wins or more. 

“Coach McRoberts is a proven head coach who has won everywhere he’s been,” MSU Athletics Director Kyle Moats said in a press release. “He and his family will be a tremendous asset to our university and community. His plan for our program and my goals and expectations matched up ideally.”

McRoberts said prior to his hire, he was familiar with the success of the program, but he had never been on campus and seen the facilities. 

He said he went through multiple interviews for four to five hours on the first day on campus, and then senior associate director of athletics Casey Hunt took him to Hammons Student Center for the first time — he was impressed. 

“I looked at it and said, ‘You should have got me off the plane and walked me straight to the gym. Why did it take so long to get me here?’” McRoberts said. “Great team room. Great locker room. We have our own film room. Some teams on the Power 5 level don’t have that. 

“The pieces are in place from a recruiting standpoint to convince them to play here, for sure.”

McRoberts said he wants to instill championship expectations with his players. But there is a lot of work to do in the interim, according to McRoberts. 

The team will have its third new coaching staff in just a six-month timespan. 

“There is going to be some growing pains as they get used to the way I like to do things,” McRoberts said. “We know where this program should be, but it’s going to take time to get that back.”

His background

McRoberts comes off a six-year stint as the head coach at Ole Miss. He posted a 111-82 record and guided the Rebels to the 2017 National Invitational Tournament Championship title — the first postseason national championship for any program in the school’s history. 

He also coached three years at Tulsa with the first two resulting in NCAA Tournament appearances. 

The Sherwood, Arkansas, native coached at Central Arkansas for six years, where he compiled a 146-58 record. He was named the Southland Coach of the Year three times. 

McRoberts also spent eight years at Lubbock Christian in Texas. His teams won seven conference championships and three regional championships in eight years. 

The team

The volleyball team currently has 10 players on the spring roster with seniors Aubrey Cheffey and Gerri Idos set to graduate in May. 

Fourth-year junior Laynie Dake, who led the Bears with 300 kills last season, will not return to Missouri State next year as well. Standout sophomore Chloe Rear transferred to play volleyball at Drury. 

McRoberts confirmed all three players who signed in the fall — Rylee Fay, Lindsay Lahr and Katie Wemhoener —  are still committed which pushes the total to 13 players for the fall. 

Despite coming into the recruiting cycle late into the process, the new coach said he wants to add at least two more players with one likely being a middle blocker. 

McRoberts said his playing style will be a “fun, exciting and fast” tempo people will enjoy watching.

“We are going to have a team that is going to play really hard,” McRoberts said. “We want to have a program when the community comes to watch they are going to be proud of. They are going to see we are a team that is pulling in the same direction. 

“We need the community and the fans to understand that it is going to take some time, but we are playing for conference championships and the NCAA Tournament. We want all those banners to be an intimidating thing when teams come in here.”

The future

Realistically, McRoberts said it may take “a couple of years” to get the volleyball program back to its winning ways. 

“I hope it’s faster than that,” McRoberts said. “We are going to work really hard to make it next year. That’s the goal.”

The next step for McRoberts is finalizing his coaching staff. He said he hopes to have one assistant coach announced next week and another assistant on board in a few weeks. 

McRoberts said he doesn’t think he will be defined by what happened with the volleyball program in the past. His focus is on rebuilding the Missouri State volleyball dynasty. 

“This program is bigger than one head coach,” McRoberts said. “This is a new start — a fresh start — and we are confident we are going to establish a winning program.”