Barry Goldberg, the coach who has built a Patriot League dynasty
by winning the league championship 10 of the last 12 years,
didn’t begin his volleyball career with a bang. He was cut
from his team as a freshman both in high school and as a player at
the University of Pittsburgh and before his senior season the
program was dropped entirely by the Athletics Department. Luckily
for American, Goldberg has always thrived on challenges.
The four-time Patriot League and three-time Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year’s record speaks for itself:
• 158-10 Patriot League record over 12 years
• 589 career wins
• .724 career winning percentage
• 12 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 16 years
• Conference championships in 13 of the last 16 years
Indeed, in the past 12 years of league play, the Eagles have lost only 10 matches. Yet the man who has come to epitomize American volleyball was not recruited as a player out of Peabody High School in Pittsburgh, Pa. In college, he joined the team at Pitt as a walk-on, and after getting cut as a freshman, he thought his playing days were over. But a call from the coach, inviting him to join the team as its 10th man, brought him back to the court. Goldberg worked hard in practice but rode the bench until the season was nearly over. Then he got his chance. Faced with player absences because of final exams, Goldberg’s coach had no choice. He was forced to use the 10th man.
Goldberg outplayed the other starters and earned a spot on the team. From then on he started at middle blocker for the Panthers. His junior year, the team he captained was ranked No. 13 in the nation. As it turned out, though, 13 was an unlucky number: At the end of the season, Pitt cut the varsity men’s volleyball program.
Undeterred, as a senior Goldberg worked as a player/coach for the club team. After graduating from Pitt with a BA in communication and rhetoric, and while pursuing his master’s in counseling education, he became assistant coach for the Pitt women’s varsity team.
A History of Success
The same determination that drove him to persevere at Pitt continues today. Goldberg led a squad with only one senior to its 12th consecutive Patriot League championship match, being edged in the fifth set, 20-18. The team finished 21-10 with a 11-3 mark in conference play. The 2011 season saw Goldberg take a team with just three returning players to its 10th conference championship and 12th NCAA Tournament appearance. He led the team to a 13-1 record in the Patriot League and a 23-11 overall record, earning him his second straight Coach of the Year award. Sara Rishell was just the second player in Patriot League history to be named the Player and Rookie of the Year in the same season, also being recognized as an AVCA All-Region Honorable Mention.
In 2010 he led the team to a perfect 14-0 record in the Patriot
League, and a 29-3 overall record, earning him his third Coach of
the Year honor. The Eagles held a 2-1 lead over No. 9 UCLA during
their 11th NCAA tournament match, but couldn’t hold on to the
lead and fell 3-2 to the Bruins. All of Goldberg’s seniors
earned awards during the season, with Angelina Waterman being named
to the AVCA All-Region Team and Magdalena Tekiel earning Patriot
League Player of the Year honors.
During the 2008 season, Goldberg led the Eagles to their eighth-consecutive Patriot League Championship and finished the year with a 24-9 overall record, 13-1 in conference play, and a 12-1 mark at home. American’s performance was so impressive throughout the year that the team was honored with four PL major awards. Senior Rubena Sukaj was named the Player of the Year for the third straight season while classmate Christina Nash earned her second Setter of the Year honor, junior Ivana Cebakova was named Defensive Player of the Year for the second time and freshman Rebecca Heath garnered Rookie of the Year plaudits.
In 2006, Goldberg coached his way to a second Patriot League Coach of the Year award and his team won its sixth-consecutive league regular season and tournament titles. Despite being a young squad, with just one senior and three juniors, the Eagles were heavy on talent and determination. Led by Sukaj, American recorded a 14-1 record at home in Bender Arena and a 14-0 record against conference opponents. The Eagles played so masterfully during the second half of the season that none of their opponents could manage to win more than one game in any match, a record that stood until they fell to top-ranked Nebraska, 3-1, in the NCAA Tournament.
Because his teams have achieved so much since his arrival, it’s hard to remember what American volleyball was like before Goldberg. Since the day he came on as coach in 1989, the Eagles have accumulated a 251-52 (.828) record in Bender Arena. He has produced 47 All-Patriot League selections in 11 years and 17 PL Player of the Year recipients.
Throughout the years his players have excelled both on and off the court. Since 1995, Goldberg’s teams have averaged a 3.33 combined grade point average per semester. American volleyball has had five Academic All-America selections, including most notably Karla Kucerkova’s selection as the 2002 and 2003 CoSIDA Academic Volleyball Player of the Year. In 2003, American graduate Natalie Hand was awarded a prestigous Marshall Scholarship, which pays for American students to study in Great Britain. 108 Eagles have earned an in-season GPA above 3.2 and been named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll in the team’s 12 years in the conference.
In 12 seasons in the Colonial Athletic Association, before American joined the Patriot League, Goldberg coached 36 players to All-CAA teams, including 20 All-CAA First Team selections, two CAA Championships MVP accolades, and a CAA Rookie of the Year winner. Goldberg has also coached three GTE/Academic All-Americans and three American University Student-Athletes of the Year. Five of his student-athletes were also named Verizon District II Academic All-Americans.
A Tradition of Winning
A look back at the Goldberg era of American volleyball shows the same pattern of consistent success:
• In 2004, the Goldberg-led Eagles compiled a 24-7 overall record while staying undefeated in league competition. The Eagles made their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and junior Cutrina Biddulph was named the Patriot League Co-Player of the Year and Honorable Mention All-America. Freshman Chelsa Brooks was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. In addition, American was the best represented school on the All-Patriot League Team with six athletes selected.
• From 2001 to 2003, Karla Kucerkova earned three straight Patriot League Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. Nationally, she was named Academic All-America Player of the Year twice. The team’s success was almost as brilliant, with victories in 48 straight league matches and trips to three straight NCAA Tournaments.
• In 2000, American competed in its final season in the Colonial Athletic Association before moving to the Patriot League in 2001. Although the switch made the team ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, the Eagles finished 26-4 and had an 11-1 conference record. In its final season in the CAA, the team received many honors, including Goldberg’s third CAA Coach of the Year award. Ajola Berisha, the CAA Player of the Year, was selected as an AVCA Regional All-American, and Judit Szekelyhidi joined her on the CAA First Team.
• In 1999 the Eagles faced six NCAA Championship participants en route to a then American record .288 hitting percentage, placing the Eagles among the top-10 hitting teams in the country. American garnered five postseason awards on its way to a third consecutive CAA Championship match appearance and finished the season ranked regionally for the fourth time in the previous five seasons. The Eagles finished the regular season with a 14-match win streak and posted a school-record 14-1 CAA mark.
• In 1997 the Eagles went 30-4, earning the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth.
• The 1994 season, when the Eagles compiled a 34-8 record that included an unprecedented 23-match winning streak, saw the team’s first postseason competition, at the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. While in Kansas City, American commanded national attention by winning two of its four matches.
The Road to the Top
Such accomplishments would have seemed unlikely, to say the least, when Goldberg graduated from Pitt. He traveled next to Washington, where he coached the Capital Junior Volleyball Club in the District of Columbia and led the Under-18 team to a top-20 finish at the Junior National Championships. All 10 of the players he coached that year went on to receive NCAA Division I scholarships. Seeing his success at that level, Georgetown University hired him as an assistant, where he coached until joining American University to take its program to the next level.
Along the way to the top, Goldberg has worked with several prestigious volleyball camps and committees. In 1997, he was the United States representative, along with the Tampa Bay Juniors Volleyball Club, at a four-nation international camp in Europe. Elite junior national teams from Switzerland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic hosted the camp. During his summers, Goldberg conducts individual and team volleyball camps at American and other locations in the Mid-Atlantic region. He has also held seminars in the National Mizuno Coaching Clinic Series. Goldberg now serves as a voting member of the national AVCA/USA Today Top-25 Coaches Poll and is also a voting member of the All-American committee.
Goldberg lives in Maryland with his wife, Bonnie. The two have three children, Arielle (23), who played volleyball at the University of the Pacific, Jared (21), who plays volleyball at Grand Canyon University, and Mitchell (18).