For 31 years Nina Matthies has been a fixture at Pepperdine University, leading the women's indoor volleyball team to national prominence and continued success year after year. This Saturday, Nov. 16, marks the end of an era as Matthies will coach her final match inside Firestone Fieldhouse. Although the Hall of Fame coach will continue to guide the Waves' national championship-winning sand volleyball team, Matthies has announced that the 2013 indoor volleyball season will be her last.
"I want to sincerely thank Nina for her commitment, dedication and sacrifice in building a championship women's volleyball program for Pepperdine," said director of athletics Steve Potts. "She has served as a role model, and transformed the lives of countless young women for over 30 years. Nina's impact and influence will be felt for many generations to come. It is especially comforting that she will continue to serve Pepperdine student-athletes in leading our sand volleyball program to national prominence."
Matthies, who was inducted into the Pepperdine Athletics Hall of Fame last month, will be honored prior to the start of the match vs. Loyola Marymount on Saturday, scheduled for a 1 p.m. start. It will be her 371st match on the sidelines of Firestone Fieldhouse. A reception, open to the public, will be held after the contest.
"I'm not looking at it as retirement. I'll still be coaching sand and still involved with the indoor team, as the two squads continue to work closely with one another," said Matthies. "I just don't have the time I think I need to spend with everyone.
"I love coaching. I have a passion for both indoor and sand, but it's just time. The indoor team is solid, has great kids, and will continue to be successful in the coming years. Sand is new, and I want to make sure the team is on the right course," Matthies continued.
"My career here at Pepperdine has meant so much. There have been many kids, so many great memories," Matthies reflected. "I've had the privilege of being involved with so many wonderful people. It's truly been a blessing to have been a part of all of their lives."
"Nina has had such a huge impact on me. I could probably go on for pages," wrote three-time All-American Kim Hill in an email. Hill is currently in Japan competing with the U.S. National Team at the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup. "Nina is perhaps the most fiercely competitive woman I've ever known, and you almost can't help but allow some of that competitiveness to rub off on you. Her passion for the game made me want to be the best player I could be. I know I am just one of many who feel this way about her."
In 1983, Matthies took over a program that was still in its infancy, having only been started just eight seasons prior. Since then, the Waves have experienced tremendous success: 11 West Coast Conference championships, 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, nine All-American selections and over 120 All-WCC picks.
"She expects a lot out of her players because she expects a lot from herself," said Potts. "She's honest with them and sets a high standard. I believe most of her players will tell you that they are better people and better prepared for life after college because of Nina."
Parents of players who have played for Matthies echoed those sentiments: "Nina had a big impact on our daughter," said Jay Rubenstein, a member of Pepperdine's Athletics Board and father of Julie Rubenstein, a 2008 AVCA All-American and four-time All-West Coast Conference performer. "When Julie arrived at Pepperdine, my wife and I did not even know if she would play, let alone start and play in every set for four years. Nina taught her how to compete at a high level. She cares deeply about "her girls" and she is passionate about her job. I think the fact that Julie played professionally after Pepperdine and is now coaching herself is a testimony to Nina."
In 31 years of coaching, Matthies has amassed a record of 588-342. She entered the 2013 season ranked 19th amongst active coaches with a win tally of 575. By the end of this season's campaign, Matthies will have no less than 932 matches under her belt.
The longest tenured coach in WCC history, Matthies' name is etched in the conference annals. Her teams have gone 318-89 since the league began sponsoring women's volleyball in 1985. That win total ranks No. 1 by more than 100 and is more than double the total of any active coach in the conference.
"The first thing that strikes me is how rare it is for a coach to have a 30+ year career at one place," continued Potts. "What an accomplishment. Her commitment to this program, to this institution, you just don't see it happen much these days.
"What also stands out about Nina to me is how competitive she is," Potts said. "She has been a champion in everything she's done. She is a champion. That word gets thrown around a lot, but it's true. As a player, both indoors and on the beach, and as a coach, she is a champion. That's a rare combination."
Matthies' success as a player began at UCLA, when she captained the Bruins to AIAW national titles in both 1974 and 1975. In 1987, her #36 jersey was retired. In 1997, she was honored as one of "The 25 Greatest Players in UCLA History."
"I haven't had a fall off since 1973," joked Matthies, "To think that I don't have to be in the gym next fall, I just can't imagine it."
While enjoying a successful indoor career, Matthies also competed on the beach, where she was widely recognized as one of the world's top volleyball players. In 139 career starts on the beach, she won 43 titles and earned 93 podium finishes. She officially retired from competition following the 1992 summer campaign.
In December 2004, she was honored with seven plaques at the legendary Manhattan Beach Volleyball Walk of Fame. The plaques represented each one of her Manhattan Beach Open titles. Her success on the beach also landed her a spot in the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Matthies will continue to live out her passion of beach volleyball as the head coach of Pepperdine's sand volleyball team. The Waves have been the team to beat since the sport emerged in 2012, winning the inaugural AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship and finishing runner-up in 2013. She has mentored eight AVCA All-American selections, more than any other sand volleyball program, including Summer Ross, an Olympic hopeful for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In 2013, she was rewarded as the first-ever recipient of the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Coach of the Year award.
"We have the best sand volleyball coach in the country," said Potts. "I'm thrilled that we get to keep her involved and give her the opportunity to build another championship team, another championship program."
Barring a nod into the 2013 NCAA Tournament, just three matches remain for Matthies and the Waves this season. After playing in the home finale on Saturday, Pepperdine concludes the regular season at San Francisco (11/21) and Santa Clara (11/23).