Love of volleyball brings Sprague back to game

By Rhema Rhea

Volleyball assistant coach Matt Sprague has focused on sharing his knowledge in blocking and defense during his first season as a member of the coaching staff.

Sprague is an experienced club volleyball coach and was a four-year letter winner and outside hitter at Ball State, where he graduated in 2010.

He made a return trip to his old playing grounds when the Huskies beat the Ball State Cardinals, 3-1, Friday at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Ind. The Huskies are 2-0 against the Cardinals this season.

Northern Star: What went into you wanting to join the coaching staff at NIU?

Matt Sprague: It was actually [associate head coach] Lynnette [Moster] who reached out to me. I met [her] at junior nationals. [I was] coaching a club team in St. Louis, and we kind of hit it off there, talked volleyball and there was a spot open, and they were looking for someone to fill it, and it kind of just went from there.

NS: How much prior volleyball coaching experience do you have?

MS: [I’d] been coaching club for 10 years in St. Louis and started my coaching career at [St. Louis University] as a volunteer last year.

NS: What types of duties have you been assigned since you’ve joined the coaching staff?

MS: So far this year I’ve helped out on blocking and defense; that’s been my focus … front row, blocking-wise and defense.

NS: You started 10 games as a freshman and had a lot of playing time as an underclassman. Have you had any tips for some of the younger Huskie players?

MS: A little bit. I got to play quite a bit all four of my years, and with experience comes a little knowledge and the ability to be mentally strong, even when you’re a freshman, and [knowing] how to deal with things. So, yeah, I think it helps out a little bit.

NS: You received a marketing degree from Ball State. Have you tried to dive into the career you got your degree in at all?

MS: I did. I did marketing in St. Louis for three years after I graduated. I missed being in the gym, teaching volleyball to younger kids, and that’s when I decided to change my career and do what I love.

NS: What’s been the biggest difference for you being a coach rather than out there playing on the court?

MS: I’d say the biggest difference is preparation. There’s a lot more that goes into preparing for matches as a coach than [as] a player. It starts at the beginning of the week watching video and other teams watching video of your team, getting game plans and scouting and all that, as opposed to being a player, sitting down and getting the scouting reports from the coaches and going out and playing.

NS: The team is 11-1 in conference play and 7-0 in divisional play. How has it been … being a part of such a successful start to the season?

MS: It’s very promising to see all the girls’ success. They work really hard in the gym, and all the hard work in the gym pays off on the court during games on the road and at home. So, they put in the time, effort and focus, and it’s really showing.

NS: Friday the team traveled to Ball State to take on the team you played with for four seasons. How was it returning?

MS: It was different. It was definitely nostalgic going back there and bringing back a lot of memories going back to Worthen Arena, where we had a lot of good times and good memories with my teammates.

It was weird turning right and going to the visitors’ locker room as opposed to the home locker rooms, but [at] game time we were ready to go. [The] girls were focused. I was focused on the match, and so were [head coach] Ray [Gooden] and Lynnette [Moster]. We worked hard as a group and it paid off. We played really well.