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Abby Gilleland Is Marquette Volleyball’s New Assistant Coach

Gilleland replaces Meghan Keck on the MU coaching staff.

Marquette head coach Ryan Theis Marquette University

There’s been a slight change in the Marquette women’s volleyball coaching staff.

Back on January 14th, the team posted a somewhat cryptic tweet:

That read an awful lot like assistant coach Meghan Keck departing the program..... but then there was no follow up to that at all and there wasn’t a press release about Keck’s departure and it doesn’t explicitly say she was leaving Marquette.

Fast forward 10 days to January 24th, and Marquette announced that Abby Gilleland was replacing Keck on the coaching staff.

Here’s the official line from the press release that confirms that Gilleland is taking Keck’s spot:

Gilleland joins the Golden Eagles after three seasons at the University of Connecticut and replaces former assistant Meghan Keck, who left MU in mid-January after eight campaigns.

So there you go. Not exactly sure what’s up with Keck as repeated internet searches since the 14th haven’t turned up anything about a new coaching destination. Meghan, if you’re out there, holler at us, we’d love to know what’s up!

Anyway, onwards to the news. Gilleland graduated from Ohio University in 2016 and then immediately joined the coaching staff at William & Mary for a year. From there, she moved on to Tennessee-Chattanooga for two seasons before heading to Connecticut where she has been an assistant for the past three seasons.

Joining the Marquette coaching staff is a homecoming of sorts for Gilleland, who was originally recruiting to Ohio by MU head coach Ryan Theis when he was in charge of the Bobcats. She played for him for two seasons before he left to take the top job in Milwaukee. Gilleland ended up finishing her career as a setter for Ohio at #3 all time in assists as well as #2 in assists per set and #3 in hitting percentage as well. As you might expect from those kind of accolades, she also left Athens with two AVCA All-American Honorable Mention awards as well as a MAC Player of the Year trophy and a Setter of the Year trophy.

Replacing Keck on Theis’ staff is an interesting situation relative to the continuity. Theis has never been a head coach without Keck as an assistant. Ohio is his only other head coaching stop and he hired Keck to assist him back in 2008, and their relationship dates back to 2005 when they were both on staff at Northwestern. Clearly he knows what he’s doing because it’s worked so well at two different stops and he’s the one making the final calls on things.... but you can’t help but wonder how things will go for Theis without Keck’s voice in the room.

If nothing else, adding a relatively recent All-American caliber athlete to the coaching staff is a pretty solid move for Theis. It will help him connect and/or stay connected with his players as well as provide a voice for them as to what it takes to be a Division 1 athlete. We can’t ignore the fact that Theis pretty much had to make sure he hired a woman as RJ Lengerich is the other full time assistant coach on staff.

It’s also worth nothing that, by chance more than anything else due to the existing relationship, Theis pulled one of the assistant coaches away from one of the other three teams to qualify for the Big East tournament this past fall. I’m not saying that Connecticut is going to crumble to dust without Gilleland on their coaching staff..... but seeing as UConn just posted the most Big East wins in program history as well as the most wins in a season since 1995 and Gilleland helped coach McKayla Wuensch to the team’s first ever Setter of the Year trophy..... well, I can’t help but see at least a little bit of Ryan Theis taking a bite out of a conference rival right at a moment when Marquette is probably going to take a notable step back next year.

The Golden Eagles went 26-6 in the fall, won the program’s second Big East regular season title, and made the NCAA tournament for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons..... but they also had seven seniors, five of whom were playing starter roles on the team in 2021. Things miiiiight just be a little on the rough side in the fall of 2022.... but that’s a discussion for a future blog post.....