Georgetown women’s volleyball Head Coach David Heller resigned Jan. 20 from his position after an uninspiring 4-25 season that ended in a 13-game losing streak. He finished his tenure with a 11-47 coaching record across two seasons.
Before arriving on the Hilltop, Heller served as the head men’s volleyball coach and an assistant coach with the women’s team at the University of Mount Olive, an NCAA Division II program in North Carolina. In 2019, Georgetown hired Heller as an assistant coach and promoted him to head coach after just one season in the program. He took over from Toby Rens, who was fired after a 30-32 record over a two-year span.
Heller’s relationship with players was not ideal, according to junior libero Abby Lutterloh.
“With him and the team, the connection was just a bit off,” Lutterloh told The Hoya.
Sophomore setter Lilly Costigan said Georgetown’s coaching staff was “inexperienced.”
“When you’re in a competitive conference like the Big East, coaching is a vital aspect of success,” Costigan said.
When asked for a specific comment on Heller’s relationship with his players, a university spokesperson did not provide further information beyond Georgetown Athletics’ initial Jan. 20 press release announcing Heller’s resignation. In the release, Georgetown Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Lee Reed expressed his gratitude for Heller’s time with the Hoyas.
In a Jan. 20 team meeting, Heller told players that he had accepted another job but did not clarify whether he would continue coaching collegiate volleyball, according to Lutterloh.
A nationwide search for Heller’s replacement will begin immediately, according to the Jan. 20 Georgetown Athletics press release. Management told players it aims to have a candidate by the end of February, but Lutterloh said players are skeptical of the timeline.
The head coach position must become less of a revolving door if the program wants to stabilize. According to Costigan, Georgetown needs an experienced coach to become more competitive in the Big East.
Costigan said the ideal coach would be able to balance their knowledge of the game with an understanding of the unique rigors that Georgetown athletes face.
“Georgetown’s academics are a lot more challenging than other schools in our conference,” Costigan said.
Assistant Coach John La Rusch will also not return next season, which leaves only one remaining member of the coaching staff: Keyton Kinley. The third-ranking coach joined the Georgetown coaching staff in 2022 following a standout playing career at the University of Oklahoma where she was a three-time captain and three-time All-Big 12 player.
Lutterloh said Kinley has helped the team develop its technical skills.
“It’s her first year coaching college, but [Kinley] grew up playing at a super high level,” Lutterloh told The Hoya. “So she knows practice plans that a good team would need to reach a higher level.”
Kinley is a beloved member of the coaching staff, largely because of her experience as a Division I student-athlete, according to Costigan.
“I think that’s what makes everyone love her,” Costigan said. “She knows what we’ve been through. She’s done it herself.”
Players are optimistic about Kinley’s future with the team, given that her two superiors are no longer with the program, according to Lutterloh.
“I think Keyton is a really good switch for all of us,” Lutterloh said. “She’s really helped us a lot with our technical skills, and with her being the only coach left now, it’s allowing her to step up into the role, whereas before it was harder for her to speak up.”
While the team may have struggled on the court, as can be seen by both its record and Heller’s resignation, the squad remains close off the court.
“If you know anything about college athletics, there’s always some sort of teammate drama or rifts, but that has absolutely not been the case with us, which is really special,” Lutterloh said. “We have really good team chemistry.”
Despite the head coach position being up in the air, Lutterloh said the team is focusing on what they can control.
“I think now it’s just about pushing each other and pushing ourselves to get better and not expecting anything less than that,” Lutterloh said.