Photo by Hillary Ehlen
From 2008-11, Jennifer Lopez left her stamp on the North Dakota State volleyball program as a player. A three-time all-Summit League selection, she led the Bison to four straight regular season titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances while being named the conference’s Setter of the Year, Player of the Year and Tournament MVP in 2011.
Now Lopez hopes to make another impact for the Bison–this time in the role as head coach. After being an assistant since 2015, Lopez was promoted to interim head coach for the 2017 season.
A national search for a permanent replacement will take place at the conclusion of the season. But right now, Lopez sees this as her program. She sat down with Bison Illustrated during the first week of practice in August to discuss her vision for the program.
How has the transition been from assistant coach to interim head coach?
Jennifer Lopez: “It’s been good so far. My ideas and being able to put them in a direction I want to go with some changes, it’s been fun to be able to do and get them to work a little bit harder.”
What’s been the biggest adjustment for you? Have you changed your coaching style at all?
JL: “A little bit. I think it’s a lot more now of getting that passion to come out a little bit more as more of a leadership type role and creating excitement. Creating an environment that they’re going to excel in and compete in and work hard to get better every day. In that regard, it’s kind of changed.”
You’re not too far removed from your playing days at NDSU. Does that help you connect with the players?
JL: “The years have gone by quite fast now. It’s getting further and further away, but at the same time, I completely get it. I know what we go through every single day. What they’re going through right now, I’ve done. I know where their bodies are going to be at.”
How do you handle having the interim role while still molding the program how you want it?
JL: “How I’ve approached it is that it’s mine right now. I want to continue pushing it in the direction that I think the program needs to go. Not necessarily worrying about, is this going to be the right thing or is this going to be the long-lasting thing? But continuing to push and make it better is my first and foremost goal and making the kids we have right now better.”
What are the expectations for this year’s team?
JL: “Our biggest thing is creating a culture. It’s competing every single day. Not getting comfortable with what we’re doing. Continuing to push ourselves and the expectations that not only the coaches set, but what the players set for themselves. And we’re looking to win. We’re looking to go into the Summit League and compete at a very high level.”
Jennifer Lopez Bio
- 4 Summit League regular season titles
- 3 NCAA Tournament Appearances
- 2011 Summit League Setter of the Year
- 2011 Player of the Year and tournament MVP
- Ranks in NDSU’s Top 10 in total assists, assists per set and digs per set.
2004 – NDSU graduate with a degree in mathematics education and a minor in coaching
2013 – Oak Grove Lutheran High School Head Coach
2014 – West Fargo Sheyenne Assistant Coach
2015-16 – NDSU Assistant Coach
2017 – NDSU Interim Head Coach