It took just 12 words to end a very short chapter in Arizona State women’s volleyball program history.
And another 12 words to begin a new chapter this week.
“Sun Devil volleyball coach Stevie Mussie is no longer with the program.” That was an online statement made by ASU VP for University Athletics Ray Anderson that unexpectedly appeared on Nov. 27, the day after the final game of the season.
No ‘thank you’ for her service that is normally included when an under-achieving head coach is asked to find another job. The only additional information was about the school beginning a national search for a new head coach, also standard fare.
But the Pac-12 school didn’t need a national search. It just looked down the bench.
“Arizona State University has named Sanja Tomasevic its eighth women’s volleyball coach.” That was Anderson’s announcement Wednesday, elevating Tomasevic from Mussie’s assistant into the head coach’s seat.
With those 24 words, Mussie fades into the background after just one season, with no public explanation for her sudden departure.
Mussie, who was an assistant at volleyball power Penn State before being hired in Tempe, inherited a fair amount of talent from her predecessor, Jason Watson, who had guided the Sun Devils into the national rankings. After a 20-win season in 2012 and three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, he accepted an offer to become the Arkansas head coach.
The ASU program, it was assumed, was poised to move into the ranks of the upper echelon on a national level.
Mussie, who had been an assistant at four different D-I programs but never a head coach, finished the 2016 season with a 12-20 record. Not the kind of season that was expected, despite winning the final three matches and beating rival University of Arizona in the season finale.
ASU’s volleyball program doesn’t have a tradition of long-tenured coaches. The only one of its past seven coaches that lasted more than 10 years was Patti Snyder-Park who held the reins from 1989 to 2002. Watson lasted seven seasons.
But one year? That’s a tough way to begin building your head-coaching resume. Obviously, there was something more involved than just wins and losses. Mussie’s coaching style and way of doing things was the exact opposite of the way Watson had been running the program. Mussie really ramped up the intensity, but the players seemed to be buying into it.
However, that support may have begun to be tested after the squad posted just one win in its first 10 conference games, eventually finishing 5-15.
The new head coach may be the only other person that knows what actually happened to bring about Mussie’s departure.
Tomasevic and Mussie are old friends, going back to their collegiate careers when they both played for University of Washington, where Tomasevic was a two-time All-American. The former outside hitter closed out her college career as the Huskies’ leader in points, kills, and service aces. In October, the Serbia native became just the second volleyball player to be inducted into the school’s hall of fame.
She came to the ASU program last season to work with Mussie, leaving her job as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Miami. She had the same responsibilities on the Sun Devil coaching staff and was named the interim head coach when Mussie left.
But suddenly the interim tag is lifted and Tomasevic finds herself in the driver’s seat.
Apparently, she plans to continue casting her recruiting net here in Arizona, which is good news for the state’s abundance of hopeful recruits. “There is so much talent here in Arizona,” she said in accepting her new role, “and our goal is to keep them here, give them a quality education and a chance to do something really special in front of their friends and families.”
(Photo: ASU Athletics)