Captains’ captain right at home
Christopher Newport coach, former player Birch thrilled
ST. LOUIS – Christopher Newport volleyball coach Lindsay Birch is right where she wants to be – both in the moment and in life.
Birch, in her 10th season as the Captains’ coach, guided Newport past SUNY-Cortland 20-25, 25-16, 25-10, 25-18 in a NCAA Division III quarterfinal at the Washington University Fieldhouse on Friday.
“Cortland is really good,” Birch said. “They use their middles a lot and they have kind of a stingy defense.”
After a first-game setback, though, Birch helped Newport (37-4) right the ship and sail off to victory.
The win marked the first time in three consecutive national quarterfinals that Newport came out on top. In the previous two seasons, the Captains fell to Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 2009 and to Emory last season.
“This feels awesome,” Birch said of the win. “Every time we’ve come here, we fully expected to win. This feels just a little bit more special. I don’t know, maybe there is a bit more of a veteran understanding of how to play these games.”
High-pressure volleyball games aren’t foreign to Birch.
She has, after all, amassed a career coaching mark of 311-79 (a .797 winning percentage) since she took over as coach in 2002. After finishing her tenure as a player for CNU, Birch slid into the head coach’s chair the next season with the departure of then-Newport coach Ken Shibuya, who left to take over the men’s program at Juniata College.
The coach also was able to achieve a high level of play for Newport during her playing days, which ended in 2001.
Birch, in addition to holding most of the volleyball records at Newport, was among the national leaders in kills, kills per game and aces during her senior season.
“[Having Birch as a coach] makes it more special for us,” Newport junior middle blocker Bailey Jensen said. “She knows where we’ve been. She has been there and she knows every aspect of the game.”
Birch, who is married to former CNU football player Josh Birch, and has a 3-year-old son, Jack, says she can’t imagine a professional life as anything other than Newport’s head volleyball coach.
“I tell people all the time that if I didn’t have this job, I would take no other job,” Birch said. “Because CNU allows me to do the best job in the world for me, I’ll do it as long as they want me to.”
Birch’s job will take her and the Captains back onto the court for a national semifinal at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday against either Springfield (34-2) or Carthage (33-6).
“Now we’ve gotten over the hump and won one. Hopefully, we can win two more,” Birch said. “We’ll have to be ready for Springfield or Carthage.”