Final piece of the puzzle firmly in place


As the culmination of five Huskie volleyball careers nears, head coach Pete Waite wants this to be the year all of the pieces in a puzzle that took four years to attain come together.

NIU’s squad seemed nearly complete having five seniors, two of which went to the 1993 United States Olympic Festival, a mix of freshmen, sophomores and juniors, all with ample ability, and an assistant who has been involved in United States Volleyball Association sanctioned events, along with coaching the USA men’s deaf national volleyball team.

As Waite searched for an additional assistant, he found along the way Jenelle Lantagne, a former Pitt volleyball standout and two-time (1989, 1990) Big East Player of the Year.

With an impressive resume which includes coaching a San Diego squad which went on to the Davis Festival, assisting under the direction of Sue Woodstra to lead the Lady Panthers of Pitt to the NCAA Tournament, and coaching a 14-Under group which attended the Junior Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Albuquerque, NM, Lantagne was the final piece Waite needed for his puzzle.

About a year ago Lantagne decided on a career in college coaching after a short lived teaching career left her searching for something more satisfying. After asking Pitt coaches to keep an eye open for her, she was offered a position by Waite as an assistant coach.

Not knowing much about NIU’s volleyball program, she decided to follow a road she had travelled before and followed her dream of becoming an NCAA coach.

Having grown up in California she was offered a position on Pitt’s squad on the other side of the country where she knew no one.

“It was a big risk for me as a player to go all the way to Pittsburgh to play,” Lantagne said. “I didn’t know anyone or have any relatives there, so just for me to take that step was very rewarding for me both academically and athletically.”

Upon arrival at NIU she was instantly drilled with questions ranging from what her philosophies towards conditioning were to how she could relate to the players better being a young coach.

“I was really impressed with some of the questions they had and what they were looking for in a coach,” she said.

Although Lantagne has taken the first step in what she hopes will land her a head coaching position, she is well content with the atmosphere and setting here at NIU.

“I’m in a good situation here with this program and I’m learning a lot from Pete and this is a good stepping stone for me,” Lantagne said.

With volleyball in her heart Lantagne would find it difficult to ever leave the sport behind. Even though her NCAA playing career is over, she continues to play competitively on sand lots throughout Illinois.

“If anything, I wish I could play a little bit more,” she said. “This past summer I was in a couple of tournaments in Lisle and Lake Michigan, and I would really like to incorporate that a little bit more.”

In Lantagne’s first year at NIU she has seen a team dominated by five senors nearly decapitate all opponents with their blistering kills, gut wrenching digs and masterful serves, but in the near future will witness some of her own recruits destroy the competition much in the way Pete Waite’s have done.