Jennifer McDowell has elevated the Emory University volleyball program to national prominence, culminating with the Eagles claiming their first-ever NCAA Championship when they brought the 2008 crown back to Atlanta.
McDowell, who assumed control of the program in the spring of 1996, has guided Emory to 22 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament, advancing to the "Sweet 16" round 18 times. In addition, she has directed the team to five berths in the NCAA Final Four, the first coming in 2003 when the Eagles posted a fourth-place finish in the tournament, the second in 2008 when the squad took home the national title, the third in 2010 when it advanced to the national championship match, in 2013 when the Eagles advanced to the national semis and, most recently, in 2014 with Emory getting into the national championship tilt.
Her 22-year Emory record now stands at 715-160. McDowell notched her 700th career triumph on October 5, 2017, when the Eagles topped Oglethorpe University. Her 600th win took place on October 5, 2014, with a come-from-behind 3-2 decision over Carnegie Mellon in the University Athletic Association Round Robin I.
McDowell's 2017 team battled injuries throughout the campaign but still managed to finish the year off with a record of 30-7, the program’s 11th straight campaign of 30 or more wins. The Eagles advanced the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championships after hosting and winning the Atlanta Regional, sweeping Worcester State, Christopher Newport University and Berry College. During the season, Emory hammered out a 13-match win streak, which included home wins over No. 6 Juniata College and No. 8 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the eventual NCAA D-III national champion. The Eagles landed an at-large berth to the postseason after finishing runner-up at the UAA Championships.
McDowell oversaw the 2016 team close out the year with an overall slate of 33-6. The Eagles advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA D-III Championships, where it came out on the short end of a five-set battle to eventual champion Calvin College. Under McDowell's guidance, three players landed All-America recognition with Jessica Holler and Sarah Maher capturing first-team acclaim while sophomore Sydney Leimbach was a honorable-mention pick. Emory also played its way to the University Athletic Association title, it fifth in the past eight years and seventh overall, defeating Carnegie Mellon in the championship showdown. Emory ended the year ranked No. 2 in the final AVCA Top 25 Poll.
Emory finished off the 2015 season with an overall record of 34-4. The Eagles advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals and ended the year ranked No. 7 by the AVCA. McDowell saw four of her players garner All-America honors with Sydney Miles and Jessica Holler capturing first-team berths while Sarah Maher and Kathryn Trinka were third-team honorees.
The 2014 campaign saw the Eagles continue their dominance in the Division III ranks, racking up a final won-lost slate of 39-4 with the victory total establishing a school season record, bettering the mark of 36 triumphs set by the 2010 and 2011 teams. Emory battled its way into the NCAA D-III Championships match, winning three matches at the St. Louis Regional and contests in the national quarterfinals and semifinals against Williams and Wisconsin-Stevens Point, respectively. Emory also came away with the program's sixth UAA title during McDowell's run with the Eagles, defeating Chicago by a 3-1 margin in the title showdown.
In 2013, McDowell oversaw an excellent campaign by her charges that resulted in a final won-lost mark of 34-5, with the victory total tying as the fourth-highest performance in school history. The Eagles finished second at the UAA Championships, the 15th time during her tenure that the program had finished runner-up or higher. Emory held down the No. 5 spot in the final AVCA Poll.
In 2012, McDowell saw the Eagles compile a 33-6 won-lost ledger, tying the fourth-highest win total in school history. In addition, McDowell guided the program to its fifth overall UAA title and third in four campaigns. Emory closed out the campaign ranked 8th nationally by the AVCA.
During the 2011 season, McDowell saw her squad tie the school seasonal mark for most wins when it hammered out an overall slate of 36-5. The record was originally set the previous campaign when the 2010 squad posted a 36-5 ledger. During 2011, she racked up her 500th career triumph on October 8, when the Eagles bettered Maryville, 3-0. That win over the Scots was the team's 23rd consecutive win, tying the 1994 team for the school record.
The Eagles finished the 2010 regular season ranked No. 1 nationally among Division III squads and held down the No. 2 spot in the final poll. The team's win total from 2010 bettered the previous standard of 35 set by the 2008 squad.
She rang up her 400th career win on Nov. 7, 2008, when the Eagles topped Brandeis at the UAA Championships. The Eagles concluded the 2008 campaign ranked No. 1 among D-III programs.
The American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) recognized McDowell's efforts during the 2008 campaign, tabbing her as the National Division III Coach of the Year. She has also been honored by the AVCA as the Regional Coach of the Year on seven occasions (2004, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015).
At the conclusion of the 2017 season, her .817 winning percentage ranked fifth all-time among Division III coaches and was third among active D-III coaches. Among Division I, II and III coaches, she ranked among the top-20 all-time winningest coaches in NCAA annals (min. 10 years as a NCAA head coach).
Every year since 1997, Emory has ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation in every weekly poll conducted by the AVCA. In 2009, Emory ended the regular season in a deadlock for the No. 2 spot in the national poll while holding down the No. 5 position in the organization's final ranking.
Before McDowell's arrival the volleyball team had 30 wins or more in only one season. In her 22 years, the team has bested 30 wins 19 times including 15 of the past 16 seasons. The 2009 team fashioned an overall ledger of 34-6 with the victory total then the second highest in program history.
McDowell's players have flourished under her tutelage. She has mentored 27 different players to a total of 45 first-, second- and third-team All-America berths while coaching seven players to UAA Player of the Year accolades, the most recent being Jessica Holler in 2016, and eight to UAA Rookie of the Year acclaim. In addition, she has seen her players rack up a total of 120 All-UAA honors. Two of McDowell's players, Amelia McCall in 2010 and Courtney Rose in 2005, earned Division III National Player of the Year honors.
In 2010, Emory registered its second straight and fourth conference crown, defeating then No. 1-ranked Washington University, 3-1, in the title match.
In 2009, the Eagles nailed down the school's third league title, defeating Washington University, 3-0.
In 2007, Emory brought home its second conference championship, defeating Washington University in a five-game thriller.
In 2005 Emory captured its first conference championship with a 3-0 sweep of then No. 1-ranked Washington University in the title match. McDowell and her assistants have been recognized as the conference "Coaching Staff of the Year" in 1996, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2014.
Prior to Emory, McDowell was an assistant coach at the University of Georgia for five years in which the Bulldogs compiled a 128-41 record and made the NCAA Division I national tournament every year. With primary responsibilities in recruiting, McDowell helped bring in one NCAA All-American, two NCAA postgraduate scholars, two GTE Academic All-Americans, one GTE Academic All-American of the Year, two Southeastern Conference (SEC) postgraduate scholars and 10 all-SEC Scholar-Athletes.
A three-time all-region selection and three-time team captain in volleyball, McDowell received her undergraduate degree from Georgia in 1989 and her master's in 1990. In 1985, she was selected to compete in the U.S. Olympic Festival. McDowell is the first and only Georgia volleyball player to have her number (16) retired.
McDowell was the interim head coach at Georgia from January to May 1989. She also has been a head coach with the Athens Junior Volleyball Club for three years.
Coach McDowell Year-by-Year Record
|Emory's All-Americans under Coach McDowell|
|2017||Sara Carr||First Team|
|2017||Elyse Thompson||Third Team|
|2017||Morgan McKnight||Honorable Men.|
|2016||Jessica Holler||First Team|
|2016||Sarah Maher||First Team|
|2016||Sydney Leimbach||Honorable Men.|
|2015||Sydney Miles||First Team|
|2015||Jessica Holler||First Team|
|2015||Kathryn Trinka||Third Team|
|2015||Sarah Maher||Third Team|
|2014||Sydney Miles||First Team|
|2014||Leah Jacobs||First Team|
|2014||Jessica Holler||Second Team|
|2014||Kate Bowman||Third Team|
|2014||Sarah Maher||Honorable Men.|
|2013||Sydney Miles||First Team|
|2013||Jessica Holler||Second Team|
|2013||Cat McGrath||Honorable Men.|
|2013||Kate Bowman||Honorable Men.|
|2012||Breanah Bourque||First Team|
|2012||Sydney Miles||First Team|
|2012||Alex Duhl||Second Team|
|2011||Natalie Schonefeld||First Team|
|2011||Breanah Bourque||First Team|
|2011||Amelia McCall||Second Team|
|2010||Amelia McCall*||First Team|
|2010||Breanah Bourque||Second Team|
|2010||Jessica McAlvany||Third Team|
|2010||Natalie Schonefeld||Honorable Men.|
|2009||Natalie Schonefeld||First Team|
|2009||Jess McAlvany||First Team|
|2008||Dani Huffman||First Team|
|2008||Alysse Meyer||First Team|
|2008||Natalie Schonefeld||Second Team|
|2007||Janet Bunning||First Team|
|2007||Madison Robelen||Second Team|
|2006||Janet Bunning||First Team|
|2006||Alysse Meyer||Third Team|
|2005||Courtney Rose*||First Team|
|2005||Catherine Zidow||Second Team|
|2005||Katrina Damasco||Third Team|
|2005||Janet Bunning||Honorable Men.|
|2004||Monica Robbins||Second Team|
|2004||Courtney Rose||Second Team|
|2004||Catherine Zidow||Third Team|
|2004||Jolene Litzman||Honorable Men.|
|2003||Jolene Litzman||Third Team|
|2003||Remley Dodge||Honorable Men.|
|2003||Monica Robbins||Honorable Men.|
|2002||LuLu Sewell||First Team|
|2002||Lori Pickle||Third Team|
|2001||Amy Hyman||Second Team|
|2000||Megan Williams||First Team|
|1999||Megan Williams||Second Team|
|1996||Liana Roman||Second Team|
|* Denotes AVCA National Player of the Year|
updated January, 2018