Craig Choate enters his fifth year as head coach of the Northern Arizona volleyball program. Prior to coming to NAU, Choate spent one year as an assistant coach for the men's volleyball team at Pepperdine University, and before that was the head women's coach at San Jose State University for 14 years. He has 21 years of head coaching experience.
Choate's 2011 team set school and Big Sky records in sweeping non-conference play and starting the season 12-0. Only two Division-I teams in the country remained undefeated longer than the Lumberjacks, who swept each of their three non-conference tournaments and opened Big Sky play at 3-0. The Lumberjacks finished with 15 wins, their most wins in a season since 2001, including the first win at Sacramento State in program history.
Junior libero Anna Gott moved to second in program history in career digs during the season and earned an All-Big Sky honorable mention selection. Freshman middle blocker Sydney Kemper was also named All-Big Sky honorable mention after ranking fifth in the conference with 1.04 blocks per set and eighth with a .256 hitting percentage, both team bests.
The Lumberjacks continued to excel in the classroom as well as on the court, as the team placed nine players on the Big Sky All-Academic Team. Junior outside hitter Lauren Campbell was named to the Capital One Academic All-America third team, becoming the first All-American in program history. Campbell was also joined by senior Katie Bailey on the CoSIDA/ESPN Academic All-District Eight Team while 11 of the 14 team members were Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete honorees.
In 2010, the Lumberjacks had just one senior and three juniors, relying heavily on Choate's talented sophomore class. The squad upped its season win total to 10, including a 3-0 record and championship in the annual Fiesta Bowl tournament. Choate's team showed great endurance throughout the season, posting a 6-6 record in matches that went four or five sets, including a thrilling five-set road victory over Big Sky rival Montana State.
Sophomore setter Kelli Dallmann built off her sensational freshman campaign in being named to the Big Sky second team. She was second in the conference with an average of 10.00 assists per set and was sixth in the Big Sky with 11 double-doubles in 2010.
In 2009, Choate returned just four letterwinners from the 2008 season but brought in one of the deepest and most talented recruiting classes in program history. He led the team to an 8-17 record with a roster with only two upperclassmen and up to six freshman on the floor. The team improved throughout the year, culminating in a five-set win over Eastern Washington, the No. 2 seed in the Big Sky Tournament.
Choate also delivered the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year for the second consecutive season. Kelli Dallmann was the Lumberjacks' most versatile player, splitting time between setter and outside hitter. She was one of four players in Division I women's volleyball to average 2 kills per set, 3 assists per set, and 2 digs per set. She was also one of five players and the only freshman in Division I volleyball to record more than two triple-doubles.
The Lumberjacks continued to excel in the classroom under Choate's direction with seven Big Sky All-Academic selections. The Lumberjacks finished tied for third with Portland State with the most All-Academic winners in the conference.
The women improved upon their six selections from 2008 and also finished third among NAU's 15 varsity sports in the fall. The Lumberjacks had six players post GPA's of 3.5 or higher and two players, Ashley Ames and Lauren Campbell, turned in a 4.0 GPA in at least one semester. Eleven of 14 student-athletes turned in grade-point-averages (GPA) over 3.0 to earn Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete awards.
In his first season with the Lumberjacks, Choate led the team to a 15-10 record which was the program's first winning record in seven years. NAU started the season 8-1 in its three non-conference tournaments, winning the team title at all three. At the Lumberjacks' two home tournaments the team was a perfect 6-0.
Senior Brittany Stowers was named the Big Sky Libero of the Year along with earning All-Big Sky First Team honors, and was second in NCAA Division I in digs per set at 6.32. Freshman Lexi Sullivan was named the Big Sky Freshman of the Year as well as All-Big Sky Honorable Mention, and finished the season ranked 25th in the nation in kills per set at 4.13.
Six of Choate's student-athletes earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, and 13 were recipients of NAU Golden Eagle Scholar Athlete Awards. Fourteen of the 16 student-athletes on the roster had GPA's of 3.00 or higher in the fall of 2008, during the competition season. Three of them- Sara Bowden, Roni Greenwood and Kailee Savage, recorded a perfect 4.0 GPA. In the spring semester Stowers and Sullivan also recorded 4.0 GPA's along with Bowden and Savage.
Stowers, with a 3.75 GPA, earned ESPN the Magazine's CoSIDA Academic All-District award, and for her athletic accomplishments was named to the CVU.com Stellar Spikers First Team alongside athletes from national champion Penn State and runner-up Stanford.
Choate compiled a record of 244-191 in his time at San Jose State including five 20-win seasons, and left as the school's all-time leader in victories. His teams made three NCAA Tournament appearances and advanced to the second round with a win over Santa Clara in 2001. That squad became the first SJSU women's team to be nationally ranked in over a decade.
Choate's 1999 team finished with a record of 25-6, and Choate was named the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year that season. During his time at San Jose State, the Spartans defeated seven teams ranked in the Top 25.
His San Jose State squads finished second in the WAC regular season three times and advanced to the championship match of the WAC Tournament in 2001 and 2003. In 1994, the Spartans won 23 matches and finished second at the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
Choate's coached one of his student-athletes at San Jose State to two All-American honorable mention honors, and he also trained seven all-region athletes and 25 all-conference selections. On the academic side, 21 of Choate's student-athletes were named Academic All-WAC.
Choate had the opportunity to spend a few days in Flagstaff in August of 2006, when his SJSU team went 3-0 at NAU's Hilton Garden Inn Invitational to take the tournament title.
Prior to his long stint at SJSU, Choate was the head women's coach at New Mexico State for three years, from 1990-92. His other coaching experience includes another year as an assistant men's coach at Pepperdine back in 1990 as well as assistant coaching positions with the BYU and Cal Poly women's programs.
As a player, Choate won silver medals at the 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004 USA Open Volleyball Championships in Atlanta. He participated in the 1981 USVBA senior men's division open championships and received All-American honors. He played club volleyball as a student at Brigham Young University.
Choate was an assistant coach at the Olympic Festival in 1994 and 1995. He holds memberships in the AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association), the USAV and has a CAP III (Coaching Accreditation Program) coaching certification.
Choate, a native of Los Angeles, graduated from BYU in 1978 with a degree in physical education. He also earned a master's degree in physical education in 1982 and a second undergraduate degree in history in 1984, both from BYU.