In 2008, when Chris Poole inherited the Florida State volleyball program, he took over a team that had failed to reach the 20-win plateau in five-straight seasons and hadn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2002. It was a program looking for answers; a program looking to get back to the winning ways it had grown accustomed to in the 1980s and early '90s.
Seven years later, Poole has made his mark, grabbing his 700th career win as he revitalized a program that become a consistent national contender. He has guided the Seminoles to an NCAA National Semifinal (2011), a NCAA Regional Semifinal (2013, 2014), a NCAA Regional Final (2009) and three trips to the NCAA second round (2010, 2012, 2015).
Poole guided Florida State to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2015, extending the program’s longest consecutive NCAA Tournament streak to seven, after finishing second in the ACC. The Florida State lineup was highlighted by All-ACC honorees Brianne Burkert (All-Freshman), Sarah Burrington (First Team), Katie Horton (Second Team), Milica Kubura (Second Team) and Nicole Walch (Unanimous First Team). Among many accomplishments during the season, Florida State posted three of the best hitting percentage performances in the Poole era during the 2015 campaign. They include a 40 kills-5 errors-73 attacks (.479 percentage) against Coastal Carolina, 43k-8e-78a (.449 percentage) at Wake Forest (Oct. 11) and a 44k-10e-82a (.415 attack percentage) over Boston College on Oct. 25.
Poole’s tutelage of Walch resulted in the Stuart, Fla., native becoming the first player in the rally scoring era to crack the 1,000 career kill plateau, while the front row tandem of Burrington and Melanie Keil guided the Seminoles to 370 total blocks (634 assisted blocks / 53 solo blocks), which marked the third straight season Florida State had at least 500 assisted blocks (572-2013, 588-2014). That is the most consecutive 500 assisted block seasons since 1986-89 when the Noles combined for 2,551 assisted blocks by posting 684, 709, 524 and 634 in succession.
In 2014, the Seminoles continued to produce history when the opened the season with a 24-match winning streak, while climbing to a program and ACC best AVCA ranking of No. 3, as four athletes captured AVCA All-America honors en route to the second consecutive Sweet 16.
In 2013, Poole helped the Seminoles to a school-record setting six AVCA top-25 wins (Kentucky, Michigan, Western Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Florida), including two of the biggest wins in school history—against in-state rival Florida and Michigan. That victory over the No. 6 ranked Gators came on December 6, 2013, when Poole guided the Seminoles to a 3-2 win and helped Florida State advance to the NCAA Champaign Regional. It marked the first time since 1990, FSU defeated UF inside the O'Connell Center. The Seminoles fell in the Regional Semifinal to Wisconsin, 3-1. Florida State also picked up program top-win in a 3-2 decision over No. 7 Michigan on Sept. 14, 2013.
The Seminoles finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an overall record of 26-8, while finishing the year ranked 11th in the AVCA poll and 12th in the RPI. FSU was led by AVCA All-America honorable mention players, Ashley Neff, Nicole Walch and Elise Walch. Neff earned All-ACC First Team honors, while both Walch sisters and Katie Mosher were awarded All-Second Team accolades.
On Nov. 17th, following a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame, Poole picked up his 700th career win and became one of the winningest active Division I coaches in the country.
In 2012, the Seminoles won their third Atlantic Coast Conference title under Poole and the program's fourth overall. Florida State finished with a remarkable 28-4 overall record, earning back-to-back conference crowns for the first time in the ACC since Maryland achieved the feat in 2003 and 2004. The Seminoles tied a school record with the 2011 squad by defeating five AVCA Top 25 opponents, and joined Southern California and Western Kentucky as the only programs to have garnered at least 28 wins back-to-back seasons.
In Poole's fifth season Florida State obliterated the school record for consecutive wins at home, reaching 27 matches before falling to Purdue in the NCAA Second Round. Florida State also achieved a 16-match win streak and won 19 consecutive sets overall in the 2012 season to reflect its stellar play. The Seminoles finished 18th in the final AVCA Poll and 12th in the final RPI, while being led by AVCA Third-Team All-American and ACC Player of the Year Ashley Neff as well as honorable mention All-Americans Sareea Freeman and Fatma Yildirim.
Poole's most memorable year thus far came in 2011, when he led the Seminoles to their first-ever NCAA National Semifinal appearance.
In 2011, FSU earned its third ACC title while finishing with a 28-7 overall record and an 18-2 mark within the conference. The Seminoles entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 national seed and quickly defeated Albany and Cincinnati in Tully Gym. From there, FSU upset No. 5 Purdue in four sets in the Sweet 16 and defeated fourth-seeded Iowa State in five sets in the Elite Eight in Minneapolis to achieve a feat that many deemed unthinkable when Poole and his staff first arrived.
FSU became the first ACC volleyball team to ever advance to the Final Four, where it eventually lost to NCAA champion UCLA in the national semifinal at the Alamodome in San Antonio. FSU was the only team in the Final Four that had gotten through its regional in which both Sweet 16 and Elite Eight opponents were nationally-seeded.
As a result of FSU's historical 2011 campaign, Poole helped the Seminoles achieve their highest national ranking ever as they finished at No. 7 in the final AVCA Poll. FSU also finished with the seventh-best RPI in the nation. Poole capped his incredible season by being named the ACC Coach of the Year for the second time as well as the AVCA East Region Coach of the Year. He coached AVCA Second-Team All-American Jekaterina Stepanova to a career year as well as AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans Visnja Djurdjevic and Neff.
The 2010 season featured several roadblocks for the Seminoles, ranging from life-altering misfortunes off the court to devastating injuries that inhibited the team's continuity. Despite all the hardships, the gutsy FSU squad finished 22-11, including 12-8 within the ACC. Several program feats were accomplished - making back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in over a decade, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Championship in consecutive years for the first time in school history and finishing with at least 20 wins for the third straight season.
Veterans Jenna Romanelli and Stephanie Neville capped off their four-year careers in excellent fashion. Junior outside hitter Djurdjevic was one of the top transfers in the country, being named an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American and an AVCA Honorable Mention All-East Region member. She joined Neville as members of the All-ACC Team as well. Poole was also inducted into the Arkansas State Athletic Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Red Wolves program on Sept. 7.
For his squad's multiple successes, Poole garnered ACC Coach of the Year and AVCA Division I East Region Coach of the Year honors in 2009.
He also coached a handful of players that generated quite a few accolades. Brianna Barry became the first Seminole to ever be named the ACC's Player of the Year and she also garnered AVCA Division I Second-Team All-American honors. Barry, an ESPN The Magazine Academic All First-Team member, was joined by Jordana Price, Mira Djuric and Rachael Morgan on the 2009 All-ACC Team - a record at FSU for most players on that list in one season. Price, Djuric and Morgan also each achieved an AVCA Division I Honorable Mention All-American nod. Poole also coached an ACC All-Freshman Team performer in Yildirim.
The Seminoles earned 21 wins in Poole's first season in 2008 and then followed that up with an incredible 2009 campaign. FSU not only posted a 31-3 overall record, but under Poole's tutelage the Noles captured their first outright regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference championship in school history (second overall) and made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.
In addition to those program firsts, Poole's Seminoles also set the school standard for most conference wins in a season with 19 and ACC wins in a row with 16, which was then tied by the 2011 team. A national ranking of No. 11 in the entire country was the highest ever for a Florida State volleyball team at the time and its No. 3 national seed in the Big Dance continues to be the highest ever. Poole's 2012 team reached the program's highest AVCA ranking at No. 6 on Sept. 3, 2012.
The fact that Poole has breathed life in the Florida State volleyball program should come as no surprise as he brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the school after heading the program at Arkansas for 14 accomplished seasons.
Poole started Arkansas' volleyball program in 1994 and was not only successful, but led the Razorbacks to 11 Southeastern Conference Western Division titles. Add to that 11 postseason appearances - two NIVC and nine NCAA - along with an SEC Tournament title and numerous individual player honors.
Upon arriving in Fayetteville, Ark. in 1993, Poole personally handled every element of building the program from buying the first pieces of equipment, hiring the assistants and recruiting the players, to renovating the court and building locker room facilities.
With head coaching stints at Arkansas, Arkansas State and Arkansas Tech, Poole earned a 550-230 career record in 21 seasons prior to his hiring at FSU and had been named conference coach of the year seven times and was pegged the South Region Coach of the Year in 1997.
During his 14 seasons at Arkansas, where he compiled a 316-161 record, Poole produced two AVCA All-Americans, three AVCA honorable mention All-Americans, 24 players with 44 All-SEC honors, three SEC Freshmen of the Year and 25 AVCA All-District/All-Region honorees. In addition to the success on the court, Poole's Arkansas teams excelled in the classroom as well with 67 SEC Academic Honor Roll selections, 10 CoSIDA All-District selections, two H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete finalists and one McWhorter winner.
Poole certainly made his mark in the SEC as he guided Arkansas to a 159-65 record in the SEC regular season for a 71 percent league-winning mark. Poole and the Lady Razorbacks were even more impressive against the Western Division, winning 11 of 14 titles.
Poole spent an entire year away from competition preparing for the Razorback's inaugural season in 1994 and it was time well spent as he led Arkansas to a 19-17 overall record, a 10-5 SEC mark and an SEC Western Division title with a perfect 10-0 divisional record in the first year of competition. The Lady Razorbacks finished third overall in the league that year and played well enough to earn a postseason bid to the National Invitational Volleyball Coaches tournament in Kansas City where they finished seventh in a field of 20 teams. Poole was selected as the 1994 SEC Coach of the Year while two of his players earned All-SEC honors and one player earned All-District honors.
Poole's ability to build a program was proven first with Arkansas Tech then at Arkansas State. He took over days prior to the 1987 season at ASU and his first team showed the effects with an 8-24 record. But with one season under Poole's careful tutelage, virtually the same team was 41-1 the next year, launching a five-year run of winning seasons for the Lady Indians.
In his last season at ASU, the Lady Indians were 41-6 and received an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament in 1992. ASU entered the 32-team NCAA field with the most wins of any team, but lost a tough four-game match to the Northwest Region's top-seeded team, Long Beach State. His 1988 team had a 33-match win streak, longest in the nation, and posted a school-record 41-1 overall mark. The next year, ASU had a 34-match win streak, notched a Lady Indian record with 43 wins (43-6 overall) and was ranked ninth in the South Region.
Prior to ASU, Poole was an assistant and later head coach at Arkansas Tech. In two seasons as head coach at ATU, he posted a 53-20 record, winning the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference title in 1985 as co-head coach and finishing runner-up as head coach in 1986. He started his collegiate career in 1983 as a graduate assistant for the nationally ranked Arkansas Tech Golden Suns. Tech was 58-9 with a perfect 24-0 conference mark in two seasons with Poole as an assistant coach.
A native of Heber Springs in north-central Arkansas, Poole is a 1983 graduate of Arkansas Tech and earned a master's degree from there in 1989. He is a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association and has served on the AVCA's All-American, All-South Region and All-South Region Ranking committees and is also an AVCA Top 25 voter.
Poole and his wife, Toni, a former Arkansas State track and field standout, have two children, son Joshua and daughter Taylor.
Chris Poole Coaching Career Recap