BALTIMORE - Alija Pittenger, a veteran NCAA Division I head coach with two NCAA Tournament appearances on her resume, has been selected as the next head volleyball coach at Loyola University Maryland.
Pittenger is no stranger to the Reitz Arena sidelines as she was the head coach at Fairfield University, Loyola's former Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference foe, from 2008-2013. She was a two-time MAAC Coach of the Year (2011 and 2012) and directed the Stags to the NCAA Tournament in her final two seasons at the Connecticut school.
"Alija is a perfect fit for the Loyola volleyball program with her exceptional coaching background," said Jim Paquette, Loyola's assistant vice president and director of athletics. "Her success as a head coach at Fairfield, a fellow Jesuit institution that shares our core values, was impressive and it is evident that she has the passion, experience and skills to transform our program"
Pittenger added, "It is an exciting time to be part of the Loyola athletic department and I'm thrilled to be part of it. The University's commitment to the success of the volleyball program, and its student-athletes, was obvious throughout the interview process, and I'm looking forward to furthering its mission of excellence both on and off the court. I would like to thank Jim Paquette, Teddi Burns and the rest of the search committee for their confidence in me as a coach."
Pittenger departed Fairfield as the Stags' all-time winningest coach with a 113-77 overall record and an 87-18 mark in MAAC play. Her leadership helped the program win four MAAC Regular-Season Championships (2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013), as well as the 2012 and 2013 MAAC Championships titles.
"From the beginning of our search, we identified Alija as someone we felt would be a great leader of our women's volleyball program," said Teddi Burns, associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at Loyola. "During the interview, and in speaking with others, those feelings were strongly validated. I believe she is going to relate to and adeptly mentor our student-athletes on, and off, the court."
She coached 17 All-MAAC selections, a student-athlete who won three MAAC Setter of the Year awards and two MAAC Rookies of the Year. Her teams were as strong in the classroom as on the court, garnering 26 MAAC All-Academic nods and four Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District selections.
"For six years, Alija Pittenger was a positive role model for our student-athletes by teaching through example," Fairfield Director of Athletics Gene Doris said. "Her work ethic and ability to relate to our student-athletes was the key component in Fairfield going to the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons. Alija continued the tradition of excellence that we came to expect of our volleyball program."
Most recently, Pittenger was an assistant coach locally at Towson University where she assisted 2014 Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year Don Metil and the Tigers to a 27-5 record, a huge improvement from Towson's 2013 squad that finished 10-24.
Through her work with the team's setters, Towson led the CAA in assists per game and team hitting percentage. One of the team's setters earned CAA All-Rookie honors, as well.
"Having interviewed qualified and impressive coaching candidates for our (assistant coaching) position, Alija impressed me in every area I was looking for," Metil said. "I'm sad to see her leave in such a short period of time, but Loyola gains a valuable coach, evaluator of talent, and respected individual today. It is a perfect situation for her, and I see Loyola becoming a team on the rise both in the Maryland area and in the Patriot League."
Prior to accepting the head coaching position at Fairfield, Pittenger was an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh from 2003-2007. The Panthers were twice selected to the NCAA Tournament during her tenure in Western Pennsylvania, and they captured the 2003 BIG EAST Conference Regular-Season and Tournament titles.
She started her coaching career as an assistant at the University of Southern Indiana in 2002, helping the Screaming Eagles reach the NCAA Division II Championships Second Round.
Pittenger received her bachelor of science in movement science with a concentration in motor control from the University of Michigan in December 2001. She was a four-year letterwinner for the Wolverines and helped the program attain its first-ever Top 25 ranking in 2000.
She was a member of three NCAA Tournament teams at Michigan and was second on the team in both digs and kills as a senior.