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AVCA Hall of Fame adds Denise Corlett to its ranks

The former women’s volleyball coach spent 31 seasons with the Cardinal and is the first assistant coach to receive the honor

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Denise Corlett, former associate head coach for Stanford women’s volleyball, has been inducted to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Hall of Fame as a member of the 2020 class. Corlett spent 31 seasons as a member of the Cardinal coaching staff as an assistant coach, interim head coach and, since 1996, associate head coach. She announced her retirement from the program in January.

Corlett, a two-time AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year, is the first ever career assistant coach to earn the honor, and will be recognized in Omaha at the Jostens Coaches Luncheon in December.

“This is an honor for Stanford volleyball, it’s not an honor for me,” Corlett said when asked about the distinction. “It’s an honor for the program, it’s a tribute to the hard work of so many student athletes that came in — they’re the reason we won the championships.”

Corlett saw nine of those NCAA championships, along with 18 Pac-12 titles, during her time at Stanford, and led the Cardinal to an outstanding 875-146 record. The Cardinal won three NCAA titles in a four-year span from 1994-1997 and again in 2016-2019. 

“There is no question that her impact on the sport is hall of fame-worthy and we are lucky that the bulk of that impact was here at Stanford,” head coach Kevin Hambly said of Corlett. “Serving as the recruiting coordinator for nine national championship teams is an unmatchable feat. Her focus was always on the student-athletes, without ever needing the public recognition that came from the success that consistently surrounded her.”

Corlett worked with three head coaches during her time at the Farm and found success with each of them. Don Shaw worked the bench from 1984 to 1999, John Dunning from 2001 to 2016 and Hambly began his tenure in 2017. The Cardinal would go on to win at least two national championships during each head coach’s tenure.

Corlett herself was twice named AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year, most recently receiving the honor in 2012. She coached in 14 national championships and guided the team to 17 Final Fours. 38 of her players received a total of 93 AVCA All-American awards during her time with the program.

One of the sport’s most respected and recognized recruiters, Corlett worked the club circuit and maintained a strong relationship with USA Volleyball, working the National Team Tryouts each year as well as serving several stints as coach of the Youth and Junior National Teams.

“She’s one of those special people who is willing and incredibly able to work mostly behind the scenes,” said AVCA executive director Kathy DeBoer in an interview with Lee Feinswog of VolleyballMag. “As a recruiter she’s relentless, and I mean that in a good way.”

On an interpersonal level, Corlett was one of the first people from the Cardinal’s staff that new players would get to know. Both colleagues and players she coached remember her as an intelligent and dependable force in the program. 

“I’ve always felt that a key component to success in leadership is surrounding yourself with people who not only can handle the parts of the job that you realize you’re not good at, while at the same time share your vision and being able to bring their own perspective during respectful collaboration,” said former Stanford head coach Don Shaw, who coached the Cardinal from 1984 to 1999. “One of the best decisions I made during my tenure at Stanford was bringing Denise on board.”

Before her years on the Farm, Corlett spent the 1987 and 1988 seasons at San Jose State. The Spartans went 42-24 with Corlett on the sidelines and qualified for the NCAA tournament both years. 

Prior to her tenure at San Jose State, Corlett spent five years as an assistant at her alma mater, UCLA, where the Bruins sported an impressive 165-44 record. They earned a championship in 1984 and reached the Final Four again the following year.

Corlett is part of the 18th class to be inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame.

Contact Sam Levine at samplevine ‘at’ gmail.com and Sariah Hossain at sariah.hossain19 ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Sam Levine is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.
Sariah Hossain is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily’s Summer Journalism Workshop.