MATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photo

Nine conference championships. Fifteen seasons with at least 20 wins. A trip to the NCAA final match.

Pete Waite's impressive list of credentials grew again Sunday, as he became the all-time winningest head coach in UW volleyball history.

"It's pretty exciting for me. It's been a lot of really fun seasons," Waite said. "You work hard every day and never really (pay attention to) a record like that, but when it comes along, it's nice to see."

While a great amount of his success came from his pre-UW career at Northern Illinois University, Waite's 162nd victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes this past weekend, which pushed him past John Cook on the all-time victory list, celebrated Waite's accomplishments at Wisconsin over a span of seven seasons.

For Waite, his achievements at UW have been particularly special. He spent his high school days at Monona Grove High School, rooting for the Badger football, basketball and, of course, volleyball squads.

"The biggest thing (about leaving NIU to coach at Wisconsin) was this was where I grew up," Waite said. "I attended basketball camps here when I was in junior high school, and I just loved watching the Badgers."

While in high school, Waite followed the women's volleyball matches and practiced with the UW men's club team at Henry Mall. He said these experiences had an impact on him returning to his home state.

"(Varsity) volleyball wasn't as prominent back then, when the women's team played their matches at the Natatorium. It's been great to come back to a huge program that exists today," Waite said.

Even during his 11 years at Northern Illinois, Waite kept close ties with his family in Wisconsin.

"My parents still live in Monona to this day," Waite said. "Every holiday, I would come back up here to spend time with the family."

"Even though I wasn't coaching here yet, we still let the kids wear (Badger) jerseys at home."

Moving to Madison: Waite underwent a major change in his career in 1999 when he was hired to become the head coach at Wisconsin after 11 years at NIU.

"My first year here was a huge step for me. It was a transition year where there was not a lot of great ball handling or other skills among the players," Waite said.

One of the greater challenges for Waite when changing schools was moving his wife and two children back to Wisconsin.

"It was a major adjustment for us, coming to Madison. Between managing the team and my family, my head was just spinning for the first year." Waite said.

However, it didn't take long for Waite to get comfortable as a Badger.

"The previous staff left me a little bit of talent, but it was a lot of hard work that went into that first year," Waite said. "We blended the team together to create great chemistry, and that set us up for the next year."

Thanks for the memories: In his first year with the Badgers, Waite lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year.

But in 2000, the Badgers ran off a string of victories that still hold importance to Waite en route to the NCAA Championship match.

"Early in the season, we beat (No. 3-ranked, at the time) Penn State at home, and we also swept Minnesota that year," Waite recounted. "Then, probably my greatest memory at Wisconsin, we beat UCLA in a dramatic win to get to the Final Four. It was huge for this program because a lot of hard work had been building up for 15 years to finally get to that point."

Waite said the Badgers' defeat of the Bruins this season on Sept. 18, as well as his record-tying win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers Friday, recalls fond memories of those great victories five years ago.

"They are just more great wins over big-name programs," Waite said. "Minnesota has been a top-five team for the past two years now, so the wins just keep adding to the memories."

On Wisconsin: Waite's favorite thing about coaching at UW has been the excitement of playing home matches in front of the Badger faithful.

"All of our work that we do day in and day out, with all the recruiting and other stuff, it all just comes down to competitions in front of great fans," Waite said. "Playing at the Field House creates an awesome atmosphere. It makes me love coming to work."

Perhaps tying the monumental record in style, with the impressive win over Minnesota, could be an omen for greater success to come for the rest of this season, as well as Waite's UW career.

"After the awesome Minnesota win, our staff and players are continuing to work every day to improve this team," Waite said.

"At this point, we're just trying to position ourselves for a great run in NCAA tournament."