While a weekend full of easy victories in the Southern Georgia Invitational Tournament doesn’t say much about UW’s preparedness for the fast-approaching Big Ten season, the results speak volumes to the program that head coach Pete Waite has established in his 14 years at Wisconsin.
After a fourth straight win in their final game of the tournament, Waite earned his 300th career win as Wisconsin head coach. Waite now has a career record of 300-132 at Wisconsin, while his overall coaching record is 566-234 in 25 years as a head coach.
Waite is the winningest coach in Wisconsin volleyball history. His .694 winning percentage while at Wisconsin also earns him the top spot in UW record books. Waite is also the only Wisconsin coach to have earned over 100 wins in Big Ten play.
“It means a lot,” Waite said of his 300th win. “A lot of work goes into every match, win or lose. So when you get the wins you really have to savor them.
“You think about every player, every manager, every Fieldhouse maintenance person, the bus drivers, everything that has gone into making things work. There are so many people behind the scenes that go into each win. I really, truly do appreciate the work they do.”
Wisconsin has won two Big Ten championships under Waite. Those titles came back-to-back in 2000 and 2001. Wisconsin also finished second in the Big Ten standings in 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2007. Waite’s career Big Ten record is 165-95, which puts his Big Ten winning percentage at a .635 clip.
Wisconsin assistant coach Dan Pawlikowski said what Waite has accomplished is no small feat.
“Three-hundred wins is a lot of wins,” Pawlikowski said. “It’s not just something that could happen over a couple seasons. It’s more than just a career; it’s dedicating a lifetime to something. It’s a milestone for sure.”
Since Waite took over as coach in 1999, the Badgers have made nine NCAA appearances, and even reached the national championship match in 2000 when they finished the season ranked no. 2. UW has finished seasons ranked in the top eight nationally in both 2004 and 2005. Besides their championship appearance in 2000, Waite has also led Wisconsin to two separate sweet 16 appearances in 2001 and 2006.
Over his 14 years coaching at Wisconsin, Waite has coached 10 All-Americans, 14 AVCA All-Region first-team selections, two Big Ten Players of the Year and 20 first-team All-Big Ten selections. Thirteen of his players have been named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, with one being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Wisconsin has placed at least one player on the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 11 of the 12 years that the award has been given out, including two selections in both 2008 and 2011. Many of Waite’s players have also experienced success after playing for him in the college ranks. Thirteen players that Waite has coached have played professionally around the world.
“He’s taught me how to be a better player and a smarter player,” senior Alexis Mitchell said of Waite. “I came into college pretty raw, I was just very athletic. I didn’t really know the faster paced game of volleyball. He’s just taught me trust myself, to trust my skills, to think about my game a lot more when I’m out there, which has made me a better player.”
Mitchell added Waite’s influence goes beyond the game of volleyball itself.
“Off the court, he’s helped me a lot learning about myself; learning who you are and what you’re capable of,” Mitchell said. “He’s taught me a lot about leadership, what it takes to be a leader and what it takes to maintain being a leader. Whether it’s school problems or family problems, he’s always had good advice.”
Waite came to Wisconsin after a very successful tenure at Northern Illinois. When Waite left Northern Illinois, he left as the winningest coach in NIU’s history, going 266-102. While in his 11 seasons there, his team won 20 or more games in a season nine times. In his final three years at Northern Illinois, his teams were 81-19 and earned NCAA tournament bids all three of those seasons. His teams advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament three out of the four times they were in the tournament. His teams won the conference championship six times while he was there and he earned Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year three times.
While at UW, Waite has won awards as well. In both 2000 and 2001, Waite was voted Big Ten Coach of the Year as well as AVCA Mideast Regional Coach of the Year. He was also named Big Ten coach of the year in 2006.
Despite winning 300 matches here at Wisconsin, Waite still has more goals.
“Go for 400,” Waite said with a laugh. “We want to get to the tournament, and we want to get to the top half of the Big Ten. I think our program is heading in the right direction. We have a good group on the court this year, and I’m enjoying that a lot.”