Fall student


McDowell is ranked in the top 20 winningest coaches NCAA in Divisions I, II, and III

by John Baker Brown, Campus Life

Emory’s longest serving head coach was named 2019 USMC/AVCA Division III National Coach of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Jenny McDowell, who captured her first AVCA National Coach of the Year honor in 2008, has been recognized by the AVCA as Regional Coach of the Year on eight occasions. 

Jenny McDowellSince taking the helm of the Emory volleyball program in 1996, McDowell has led Eagles to two NCAA D-III Championships – 2008 and 2018. She also inspired her Eagles to 24 consecutive appearances in NCAA Division III tournaments and seven berths in the NCAA Final Four. With a 24-year record of 779-169 at Emory, she is ranked in the top 20 winningest coaches NCAA Divisions I, II, and III.

McDowell was a three-time all-region selection and three-time team captain in volleyball at the University of Georgia, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She is the first and only Georgia volleyball player to have her number (16) retired. 

“Jenny McDowell has established herself as a coaching leader and legend among collegiate volleyball coaches,” said athletics director Mike Vienna.

“Her knowledge, dedication, and passion to develop young women to be the best student-athletes and people they can be is part of her incredible success. And, of course, the competitive success she has achieved at Emory over the past 24 years is remarkable.”

A conversation with Jenny McDowell, Emory’s head coach for volleyball

Connections: Why did you choose to be a coach and why your sport?

McDowell: I majored in marketing at the University of Georgia and thought I would pursue a career in business. After completing my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to be a graduate assistant for UGA women's volleyball and complete my master’s. It was during those two years that I fell in love with coaching.  

Connections: Did youJenny McDowell with team play your sport? If so, when, where, and how many years? 

McDowell: I played volleyball for Georgia from 1985-89. I was recruited to play there as a high school student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Connections: Why did you choose Emory University?

McDowell: After coaching at Georgia for six years, I was looking for a place that I could start my head coaching career. To me, Emory had potential as the perfect destination for the best student-athletes in the country. 

Connections: What would you like to say about the Emory Eagles you coach? 

McDowell: It has been the greatest honor and privilege to coach these incredible women and play a small role in their lives. They are the best of the best. They are stellar scholars, elite athletes, and extraordinary people. These women have brought out the best in me as a teacher, coach, and person. I am so thankful to each and every one of them.

Connections: What would you like to say about Emory’s athletics program? 

McDowell: These 400+ Emory athletes are truly the best student-athletes in the country. They are strong leaders on campus, outstanding students in the classroom, elite athletes and remarkable alumni that are changing the world. I believe the Emory athletics program is doing it right.

Jenny McDowell with student-athleteConnections: What advice would you offer to athletes in secondary school aspiring to play your sport in college? 

McDowell: You can excel in the classroom and on the court as long as you stay focused. Stay positive and don't let anyone tell you that you can't. 

Connections: What do you recall as one or more of the highest points in your career? 

McDowell: Winning the two national championships in 2008 and 2018 were definitely two of my favorite moments. But playing in 24 consecutive NCAA tournaments demonstrates the long-term success and history of our program that have included so many incredible players, coaches, and staff members. 

Connections: What do you say about being named USMC/AVCA D-III National Coach of the Year

McDowell: It is a special recognition because I was selected by my coaching colleagues around the country. I view it as an honor for our entire team and staff. We are a family and these honors represent the entire program. 

Connections: Is there anything else that you would like to add?  

McDowell: I am so thankful to Chuck Gordon, the athletic director in 1996, who hired me to lead this program. He definitely took a chance on me and I am forever thankful.

(The game photos above were taken during the NCAA Regional Finals hosted at Emory on November 17. Colorado College was the opposing team. Tara Martin, a second-year student, is the Emory player pictured with McDowell.)

Read more

Jenny McDowell’s bio: https://www.emoryathletics.com/sports/wvball/coaches/McDowell_Jenny?view=bio

U.S. Marine Corps/AVCA Division III National Coach of the Year: https://www.avca.org/awards/national-coaches-of-the-year/division-iii.html

Read about Emory's national championship honors, 1996 to present: https://emoryathletics.com/General/NationalChampions/index