Through his first two seasons, Matt Jennings has, without a doubt, reignited the volleyball program at Michigan Tech. With 13 GLIAC victories and 22 overall, the Tech volleyball team has won more matches over Jennings' first two seasons than it had in the previous three combined. Having inherited a team that went 0-19 in conference play in 2011, but played in the NCAA tournament as recently as 2009, Jennings directed a 7-11 GLIAC and 12-19 overall finish in 2012, the best year to year improvement in the league.
Since taking the helm, Tech's roster has been recognized in a multitude of ways including nearly two dozen individual academic awards, several player of the week honorable mention nods, and most recently with Madeline Haben's All-GLIAC Second Team selection.
Academically, the Tech volleyball team has continued to excel under the leadership of Jennings and his staff. The team's fall, in-season cumulative GPA in 2013 was an impressive 3.55, up from 3.4 in 2012.
The 2014 season will feature a roster of nine freshman and sophomores along with six juniors, all of whom have come to Tech since Jennings began as head coach. Many have posted solid numbers in their young careers as Huskies, especially Jacqueline Aird at libero. In two seasons she's dug 862 balls, good for over 3.8 per set. Last season, freshman Aubrey Ficek led the GLIAC in aces per set and finished near the top in Division II. Kendall Ward tallied the second most kills for a freshman in the GLIAC last year, a total that was a team high.
Jennings was named the seventh volleyball coach in school history Jan. 27, 2012 after serving as both a head and assistant coach, which most recently included a five-year stretch as an assistant and recruiting coordinator at the Division I level. Directly preceding his start at Tech, he served three seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh, formerly of the Big East, and current member of the ACC.
Jennings served as Pitt’s recruiting coordinator and worked with the passing, defensive and outside hitting elements of the team. The Panthers compiled a 51-44 overall record during his three years there including a 20-win season in 2009 and an 18-win campaign in 2011. Pitt reached the conference post-season tournament all three seasons Jennings was there. In 2009, the Panthers entered the post-season with a 12-2 Big East record and in a tie for 2nd place. Ten of the twelve league wins came 3-0, a program record. That season included wins over two top 25 teams and multiple individual awards.
Jennings probably made his biggest mark at Pitt as the program's recruiting coordinator. He orchestrated back-to-back nationally ranked recruiting classes in 2011 and 2012 (prepvolleyball.com). With the incoming class of 2012, Pitt landed five Illinois all-state selections, two high school All-Americans and three AAU National Champions thanks to Jennings’ recruiting. The class was the highest ranked class in Pitt history, and was mentioned alongside the like of Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, Purdue, and more. In 2011, he helped sign three high school All-Americans and the 'Miss Florida Volleyball' winner who since was named All-ACC (2013). Prepvolleyball.com recognized the group as 'honorable mention', putting it among the country's top 100 incoming classes.
In his three seasons on staff, Pitt produced several highly decorated players, both athletically and academically, including: three AVCA All-Americans, six All-Big East selections, the Big East Player and Libero of the Year, an ESPN Academic All-American and the 2009 Big East Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
While in Pittsburgh, Jennings also served as a head coach at the
Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball Club. He spent two seasons with the
18-premier team and one with the 17-premier.
Jennings worked for a season at DePaul University, in his hometown of Chicago, prior to heading to Pittsburgh. He was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator and also helped the Blue Demons establish a program record for Big East victories. He spent the 2008 campaign as an assistant women’s coach at Eastern Kentucky, helping coach a player who set an NCAA record for digs per set.
Along with his time at the college and club levels, Jennings has been part of two international travel teams. In June of 2008, Jennings was selected to lead the USA Athletes International Men’s Team in the Scottish Open Volleyball Tournament in Perth, Scotland. Having never played before the trip, his team went on to win the tournament with an undefeated record and a victory over the Scottish National Team in the final match. Then in the summer of 2013, Jennings took a similar group, this time female, to the Netherlands where he, for the second time, led the team to a tournament championship. The group went 8-2 overall and won the DKV Tournament in Groningen.
The Chicago native played men’s volleyball at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., from 2000-03. He was a four-year starter, a two-time all-conference performer and a 2002 Collegiate Club All-American. He helped his team to a national third-place finish in 2002.
Jennings began his coaching career at NAIA member St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. From 2004-06, he served as the head men’s volleyball coach and head women’s junior varsity volleyball coach. He helped his men’s team to a conference runner-up finish and top-10 national ranking in 2005. With a 19-player recruiting class in 2006, Jennings’ players, along with his former assistant serving as the current head coach, had taken a once struggling program to the top tier of the NAIA. St. Ambrose has had six consecutive 20-plus win seasons since and earned a spot in the national championship last season.
Jennings earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science from Augustana in 2003 and received his master of business administration (MBA) from St. Ambrose in 2006. He has spent time working in the financial industry as a credit manager for Wells Fargo and an associate business analyst for the Northern Trust Company in downtown Chicago.