Cook Announces New Assistant Coach

University of Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook announced Thursday the hiring of Colorado assistant coach Erik Sullivan to the Nebraska coaching staff. Sullivan, a two-time U.S. Olympian, has been at Colorado for the last four seasons, working primarily with the outside hitters and team passing.

He replaces Lee Maes, who was named the head coach at the University of Virginia last week.

According to Cook, Sullivan's combination of high-level playing and coaching experience made him stand out among a talented field of candidates.

"I feel that Erik is one of the up-and-coming young coaches in the country and was a good fit for what we were looking for on our staff," Cook said. "As a player, he played at the highest level, representing the United States in two Olympics and playing professionally. Since moving into coaching, he has worked with not only the Colorado program, but also at the club level and in the USA program. He has coached in the Big 12 for four years and understands the programs in our league, which was an important consideration for us."

Sullivan said that being familiar with the Husker program, as well as the coaching styles of both Cook and assistant Lizzy Stemke will make for a smooth transition as he joins the staff in time for the start of spring practice.

"I know that Nebraska is second-to-none in terms of the facilities, the support they receive from both the fans and the administration and the success they have enjoyed in recent years. Programs around the nation use Nebraska as a model on how to build their program," Sullivan said. "I've known both John and Lizzy through the USA program and that was important because you want to develop a comfort level among the staff."

Sullivan said his extensive playing background with the national team and professionally was essential in his coaching development.

"The thing I learned playing around the world is that you can win in different ways," Sullivan said. "There is not one model or style that leads to success. Many of the players at Nebraska have aspirations of playing either professionally or at the national team level, and I can help in their preparation and with the demands of continuing a volleyball career following college."

In his four years at Colorado, Sullivan helped the Buffaloes to three straight NCAA appearances and helped tutor a pair of players who earned All-Big 12 recognition, including two-time all-region selection Allie Griffin.

Sullivan, 35, played libero for Team USA at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. His trip to Athens was his second Olympic tour of duty, as he served as co-captain of Team USA at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

An eight-year veteran of the U.S. National Team, Sullivan's defensive successes are well documented. He earned Best Defensive Player in the World at the 1998 World Championships and that same year he earned the USA National Team's Tom Haine Players' Award. Sullivan was touted as the America's Cup Best Reception Player in 2000 and the Best Libero at the 2001 World Championship Qualifier. He was the Best Defensive Player at the 1997 NORCECA Zone Championships and the Best Reception Player at the 1999 NORCECA.

Sullivan's playing experience has also stretched to the professional ranks in Europe. His professional resume includes stints in Naefels, Switzerland (1995-97), Malaga, Spain (1999), Apeldoorn, The Netherlands (2000-01) and Odintsovo, Russia, (2003).

Back in the United States, Sullivan played professionally on the Four-Man Volleyball Beach Tour from 1996-97. He was named the tour's Rookie of the Year in 1996 and was tabbed the tour's Left Side Player of the Year in 1997.

Sullivan served as director of the Pikes Peak Volleyball Club in Colorado Springs, Colo., from 2001-02 and served as coach of the club's 17 & Under contingent.

A two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) second-team All-American at UCLA, Sullivan led the Bruins to a pair of national titles during his four-year playing career (1992-95). Sullivan finished his career as UCLA's all-time leader in matches with 10 or more digs (25) and ranked second in career digs (747). As a senior in 1995, Sullivan captained the Bruins to an NCAA title while ranking ninth nationally in digs (2.5 dpg). He graduated from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in physiological science in the spring of 1995.

       
A native of Encinitas, Calif., Sullivan is married to the former Amanda Heavner of Santa Barbara, Calif. The couple has a daughter, Shaye (6) and a son, Cade (1).


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