Back on Valentine’s Day of all days, Marquette volleyball announced that assistant coach RJ Lengerich was leaving the program.... and then just one hour later, they announced that Ryan Walthall would be joining head coach Ryan Theis’ staff for the 2022 fall season.
Thanks to RJ Lengerich for six great seasons in Milwaukee! We're excited to see what the future holds for RJ, Marisa and family! #WeAreMarquette pic.twitter.com/xsDtifQTPr— Marquette Volleyball (@MarquetteVB) February 14, 2022
Excited to welcome new assistant coach Ryan Walthall to @MarquetteU! Walthall joins MU from the Penn State men's program. Welcome, Ryan! #WeAreMarquette— Marquette Volleyball (@MarquetteVB) February 14, 2022
MORE ⤵️ https://t.co/i2a2ly0iEp pic.twitter.com/6yKZEEW2Br
First things first: Lengerich had been a part of Theis’ staff since the 2016 season. The Indiana grad was a part of five NCAA tournament teamst Marquette and helped guide the 2021 team to the program’s first Big East regular season title since 2013. Between the timeframe involved between the two announcements as well as Theis’ own words in the press release for Walthall’s hiring, it appears that Lengerich merely decided that coaching wasn’t the right thing for him at this time and was staying on until Theis finalized the hiring of his replacement.
Here’s the quote from Theis:
“When RJ decided to step away from coaching, my first thought was to try and get Ryan Walthall on staff,” Theis said. “Walt is a tireless worker and committed to the study of volleyball. He has spent the last six years working with some of the best male volleyball players in the country at Penn State and we had the pleasure of working together two years at Ohio. The team of course made fun of the fact that I am only willing to hire Ryans, but I call it a coincidence. I look forward to working with him again.”
The first part of the first sentence is the giveaway on Lengerich’s future. The second to last sentence is the funny part, as Lengerich’s first name is in fact Ryan, just like his now-former boss and his replacement.
Walthall has a long and pretty prolific volleyball background. After ranking as a top 50 prospect coming out of high school in the early 2000s, he played for four years with the Penn State men’s team. Every single one of his playing career teams reached at least the national semifinals..... but the tournament was only four teams in each of his four seasons with the Nittany Lions. They did advance to the title game in his junior year with Walthall serving as the team’s libero.
Since graduating from Penn State, Walthall has had coaching stops on the women’s side of the collegiate sport at Nebraska, North Florida, Ohio, and UC Santa Barbara. If you’re paying close attention, then you’ve already realized/figured out that Walthall did work for Ryan Theis when they were both at Ohio. From UCSB, Walthall returned to his alma mater and served as an assistant for his old team and Mark Pavlik, his old head coach, for the past seven seasons. Penn State has gone 110-62 with Walthall on staff and 66-15 in conference play. That has only turned into two NCAA tournament appearances, but that has more to do with the NCAA tournament only having seven teams as of the 2021 season than anything else.
The 2022 Marquette season is going to be an interesting one. That was always going to be the case with the Golden Eagles losing seven seniors after the 2021 campaign was over. But Ryan Theis has already replaced Meghan Keck on his coaching staff, and Theis has never been a head coach without Keck on the sideline with him, even going back to his Ohio days. Abby Gilleland is the other new assistant on the staff after making the transition to MU from UConn back in January. With Walthall replacing Lengerich, Theis will be operating with neither of his assistant coaches that have been by his side for the last six seasons, and he’ll be trying to coach a team that has more question marks than solid answers for anything right now.