Dec. 4, 2009

By Judd Spicer
Special to

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jason Skoch wasn’t brought to Division II women’s volleyball powerhouse West Texas A&M merely because his surname rhymes with his livelihood. Rather, Coach Skoch came to Canyon, Texas, as one of the rising sideline talents in his sport.

Skoch traversed to the Lady Buffs after four years at Truman State, where he went 137-22 (.861) in four seasons from 2005-08 and earned four straight trips to the NCAA tournament, including an appearance in last season’s Final Four.

This Minnesota winter has proven warmer for the coaching up-and-comer, as Skoch’s A&M bunch cleared the hurdle he was unable to mount in ’08: His team made the national championship game with a win over Flagler in the semifinals.  

His time at West Texas A&M has been brief. He had the opportunity to work with his team for only two weeks in the spring. But Skoch sees no need to wait on bringing the Lady Buffs back to their powerhouse days of the 1990s, when they won three D-II titles in eight year (1990, ’91 and ’97).

“The previous coach at A&M and I have very different personalities,” Skoch says of going to a new and already successful program that was coming off three consecutive 30-win seasons. “The way they had trained, they specialized more. I’m more of an all-skills coach. We’re just asking more of the players. Take Laura Prinsen. She never set before this year, her senior year. Little things like that.

“We play in practice. We do more pressure situations. We’re more aggressive in practice. That’s not to say [my predecessors] weren’t, but I’m just more blunt with the players. And I keep it about volleyball. I don’t deal with their personal lives. They’ve had to learn that when I say stuff, I’m not saying, ‘You’re ugly.’ I’m just saying, ‘That was a terrible pass.’

“There was a lot more ... buddy stuff before, and that’s just not my style. I mean, the players come and talk to me a lot, but it’s just more structured.”

Skoch’s style undoubtedly nets results, evidence of which he aims to capture Saturday night in the final against host Concordia. But before the NCAA championships, proof of his sideline skills were found in mirrored form as his new team took on his previous team in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“I didn’t want to play that match at all against Truman,” Skoch says. “When I saw the bracket, I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’ But I never made it about me, and I really believe that’s why we won the match. And that’s also why, I believe, they struggled a little.”

Four wins later, Skoch has reason to look forward as he and the Lady Buffs try to claim to their first title in a dozen years.

“I know we’ll be excited,” he says. “We’re in the national championship match. And I’ve seen a lot of things happen in that match, so I’m excited for tomorrow.”