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  JJ Riley
JJ  Riley

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Assistant Coach


Van Niel Named Utah Volleyball Assistant Coach

Van Niel hire rounds out Launiere's coaching staff heading to 2015 campaign.

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JJ Riley is in his third season as an assistant coach for the University of Utah volleyball program. Last season, Riley helped guide the Utes to its first 20-plus-win season as a member of the Pac-12 Conference - the most wins for the program since Utah joined the league in 2011.

Under his leadership, Utah finished the 2013 campaign with an overall record of 21-13 and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, where the Utes made it to the second round. Utah defeated Yale in the first round of the tournament before falling to eventual National Champions, Penn State.

Primarily working with student-athletes at the setter, outside hitter and defensive specialist positions, Riley was instrumental in Kalee Kirby and Kendall Cygan working together to accumulate more than 1,450 assists in 2013. Shelby Dalton led the team with 2.62 kills per set and went on to earn AVCA First Team All-Region Honors, as well as being named an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American. Libero/DS Tess Sutton averaged more than 3.5 digs per set in the final 13 matches that she started in and was named a Pac-12 All-Freshman Team Honorable Mention selection.

In Riley's first season with the Utes the team finished 14-9 overall, and under his tutelage, McKenzie Odale and Cygan, a freshman at the time, combined for more than 1,300 assists on the season, while averaging nearly 12 assists per set. Alli Spurrier, Morgan Odale, Chelsey Schofield-Olsen and Dalton accounted for more than 1,000 of Utah's 1,592 kills in 2012 and Olsen led the squad with nearly 300 digs on the season.

In his two-plus seasons with the Utes, Riley has seen six of his pupils go onto earn academic accolades as well. Lea Adolph, Schofield-Olsen, Spurrier and Dalton are each two-time Pac-12 All-Academic selections, while both Odale and Cygan earned the honor once while playing under Riley. Most recently, Adolph was tabbed a Capital One Academic All-District Second Team selection.

Riley brings an extensive and diverse volleyball background to the Utah coaching staff, on both the collegiate and club levels, as well as on both the men's and women's side of the game. He was in his second season as an assistant coach with the USC men's volleyball team before joining the Utes, and has coached for both the men's and women's teams at Pepperdine.

Between the two programs, Riley helped guide seven teams to top-eight national finishes, coached in two NCAA Final Fours (most recently in 2011), mentored two first team All-American setters, and in his own playing career, led his team to the NCAA National Championship match as an All-American setter for Pepperdine.

While at USC, Riley helped coordinate the offense for one of the most successful squads in school history. The 2011 team amassed the most overall wins since 1999 (23-4), and held a #1 ranking in national polls throughout the entire season. The Trojans captured the MPSF league title, boasting a 20-2 league record (their first outright MPSF win since 1991 and most league wins since 1986). The 2011 Trojans culminated its record-breaking season with a Final Four appearance, ranking third nationally in final AVCA polls. In addition, they led the nation in assists (13.35), kills (14.16), digs (9.76) and its .351 hitting percentage was a school best in the rally scoring era.

Alongside head coach Bill Ferguson, the 2011 MPSF Coach of the Year recipient, Riley helped several Trojans earn national recognition, including setter Riley McKibbon (first team All-American) and opposite Murphy Troy (AVCA & MPSF National Player of The Year/first team All-American). Additionally, five players went on to earn professional volleyball contracts and four former Trojans were named members of the US Men's National Team.

Prior to USC, Riley experienced great success on the women's side of the game as well, as assistant coach for the Pepperdine Waves (2001-2003). Again leading the charge with the setters and offensive schemes, Pepperdine tallied an impressive 76-14 (.844) winning record during Riley's tenure, reaching the Sweet Sixteen twice (2001, 2003), and an Elite Eight appearance (2002) as well - their first NCAA Regional Final appearance. These three years marked the best consecutive seasons in program history, realizing an all-time high in 2003 when the Waves ranked fourth in AVCA polls (their highest in-season national ranking), while also earning a first-ever No. 1 regional seed for the NCAA Tournament. In addition, the Waves were named West Coast Conference champs by going undefeated in league play for three straight seasons. In final polls, Pepperdine ranked among the top-8 in the nation all three years. Two Pepperdine setter's garnished first team All-WCC honors under Riley's tutelage (Paola Rodriguez and Melissa Mehlhorn).

Riley also served as an assistant coach for two seasons with the Pepperdine men's team in 2000 and 2010 (under legendary coach Marv Dunphy). In 2000, he helped the Waves advance to the NCAA Final Four, while the 2010 squad finished in fifth-place, respectively, in final AVCA polls. Riley mentored first team All-American setter Kasey Crider, who led the nation in assists that season.

During each of Riley's coaching stints, his responsibilities went beyond setter training and offensive systems, as he also played a key role in practice planning, game time preparation and strategies, and technical skills training. He also assisted recruiting efforts that saw several ranked classes and landed many of the nation's top prep players.

Riley has also been successful at the club level, having coached the Southern California Volleyball Club 16 boy's team to a bronze medal at the 2011 Junior Olympics, and also taking Sports Shack's 16-1 girl's team to two consecutive top-five finishes at Reno Volleyball Festival (2003/2004). Riley's biggest undertaking in club volleyball was his tenure at Oregon Volleyball Academy, a non-profit, youth club that he founded in an effort to grow the sport in the Central Oregon region. As Director and top coach from 2005-2009, Riley oversaw a staff of 20 coaches that serviced 16 teams at various age levels. Additionally, Riley served as the girl's varsity head coach at Summit High School in Bend, Oregon for three seasons, in which time he turned a one-win team into a league contender and made the school's first-ever state tournament appearance in 2006 (5A division). Many of JJ's former prep players have gone on to enjoy successful collegiate careers at all levels of NCAA and NAIA competition.

As a collegiate player, Riley was a setter at Pepperdine from 1995 to 1999 and was named a Second-Team All-American in 1998 as the Waves won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title and reached the NCAA Championship match. He ended his career as Pepperdine's all-time assist leader with 3,788 and currently stands fourth in the school's record book. As a prep, Riley was a four-year letter winner and multi-year all-state honoree in both volleyball and paddling at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Riley helped guide the volleyball team to a pair of state titles and contributed to a remarkable 11-year win streak. He also won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Junior Olympics in club volleyball, and represented the USA on the Youth National Team for two consecutive seasons (1993 and 1994).

Riley graduated from Pepperdine in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education, with an emphasis in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training. He also obtained a Master's in Coaching and Athletic Administration from Concordia University in Irvine, Calif. in 2014. Additionally, Riley is a NESTA certified strength and conditioning coach and is SAQ certified.

His wife, the former Emily Rothman, played volleyball at Pepperdine. The couple has a 2-year-old son named Rex.

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