With the 2016 season, Laura Evans begins her third season as the Blue Devils' head volleyball coach.
The Blue Devils went 16-18 in 2015, and Molly Brion and Ashley Pratt earned WIAC honorable mention honors. The Blue Devils went 3-1 on a trip to the West Coast and held their own in the UW-Whitewater Invitational where they faced three nationally ranked teams.
In her first season (2014), Evans team posted a 20-10 overall record, notching the team's first 20-win season since the 2004 year. Middle hitter Morgan Denny earned first team all-WIAC honors, while Molly Brion and Karley Wiensch received honorable mention recognition.
Previous to coming to UW-Stout, Evans was an assistant volleyball coach at Colorado Christian University, an NCAA Division II program in Lakewood, Colo., near Denver, during the 2012-13 school year. The program posted a 23-10 overall record and advanced to the final four of the conference tournament. The Cougars advanced to the NCAA Division II national tournament.
Evans was the assistant volleyball coach for two seasons at NCAA Division III Augsburg College from 2010-12.
During her time at Augsburg, Evans helped lead the Auggies near the top of the MIAC conference standings. The Auggies recorded three 16-win seasons, as well as the school's second-ever berth in the MIAC post-season tournament. During her stint with the Auggies, Evans assisted with the team's on-court practice and game preparation and coordinated the team's recruiting efforts.
Evans began her collegiate coaching career at NCAA Division III Luther College, where the Norse posted a 26-12 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Division III second round during the 2009 season.
Coaching volleyball is in her blood, Evans will admit.
Evans has been surrounded by volleyball her entire life. Her mother, Deb Hegerle, is a member of the University of Minnesota Volleyball Hall of Fame and is a club volleyball coach. Her father, Larry Hegerle, recently completed a career as the highly successful head volleyball coach at Kasson-Mantorville High School in Kasson, Minn. Her brother, Jon Hegerle, is the head volleyball coach at the University of Jamestown in Jamestown, ND.
Talk around the dinner table naturally included volleyball, but Evans said she was not pushed into playing volleyball. Her first passion was basketball and she also ran track throughout high school.
With the Hegerle name synonymous with volleyball, acquaintances would ask Laura if she was eventually going to become a volleyball coach. Evans fought back a bit, and plunged first into basketball. She started playing club volleyball with the Northern Lights Juniors and "I became passionate about the high level teams," Evans said.
Passion is a key word when talking to Evans.
"I am very passionate about the game and establishing relationships with people," Evans said. "I want us to be very passionate about what we are doing."
"Growing up with parents who were coaches, I just learned a lot about the game," Evans said. "I have had a lot of great mentors."
Evans incorporated her love for the game while working on a master's degree in leadership from Augsburg College. A large part of her research for her master's thesis consisted of studying the coaching style and philosophy of Concordia-St. Paul University's volleyball coach Brady Starkey. Starkey has led the Bears to seven NCAA Division II volleyball titles. Evans has since completed her masters' work.
"We could tell Laura had a passion for the game of volleyball," UW-Stout athletic director Duey Naatz said. "She has high expectations coming in here. Laura has had an excellent background as a player and a coach, and she has worked with some great people.
"We see a passion for recruiting top quality student-athletes. We are excited for the transition period and a new direction for the program."
When seeking the volleyball position, Evans was impressed with the region, the school and the conference. Evans succeeds longtime coach Jill Jolliff , who coached volleyball at Stout for 21 seasons and leaves with the most wins in school volleyball history.
"This conference is so strong," Evans said. "So many players know about the WIAC. I do like the rural setting and when I (assistant) coached at Augsburg, we played here."
As far as the game goes, Evans, a former outside hitter, prefers an aggressive style.
"Serving and passing is huge," Evans said. "I want us to be aggressive on every ball and have the best ball control. I want us to have a lot of weapons to score with."
Evans has also been the head coach and age director for the Minnesota One Volleyball program in Bloomington, Minn., from 2010-12 and did coach the Chaska Juniors Volleyball program in Chaska, Minn.
A three-year captain at Division II Southwest Minnesota State (2006-08), Evans (formerly Laura Hegerle) was an outside hitter for the Mustangs, finishing her SMSU career with 741 kills (2.96 kps) and 74 aces, playing on teams that were ranked in the top 10 nationally in Division II volleyball for two seasons in her career. She was a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Player of the Week in the 2007 season, in addition to being named to the North Central Regional All-Tournament Team that year. Hegerle played her initial collegiate season at South Dakota State University before transferring to SMSU.
During her high school career at Kasson-Mantorville, Evans earned all-state and all-state tournament honors, and was inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame in 2012. Her father, Larry, was her high school coach. Evans finished her career with a school record 1496 kills.
A native of Dodge Center, Minn., Evans and her husband, Jared Evans, a former All-American wrestler at Augsburg, currently reside in Menomonie. Jared is a pharmaceutical sales representative with the state of Wisconsin as his coverage area.