Penn State – Cradle for Coaches: Lori Lokash

Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, earned the nickname “Cradle of Coaches” for producing a long line of great football coaches, including Earl Blaik, Paul Brown, Woody Hayes,Weeb Ewbank, Sid Gillman, Ara Parseghian, and Bo Schembechler, to name just a few. Penn State Women’s Volleyball hasn’t matched that record, but, as noted in a recent issue of the Penn State Boosters Club Newsletter, the Penn State Women’s Volleyball program has produced many players who have gone on to successsful coaching careers.

This is the first in a series on former Penn State Women’s Volleyball players who moved into coaching after their playing careers were over.

Lori Lokash

Lori Lokash has always been determined to win. At Norwin High School, in North Huntingdon, PA, where she played for PVCA Hall of Fame coach Sheron Watson, Lori’s teams won three consecutive PIAA state championships. She started her college career at West Virginia University, where she played one season before transferring to Penn State to play for the Nittany Lions and Coach Russ Rose. In her three years at Penn State, Lori helped the Nittany Lions to records of 34-11 (in 1980), 44-5 (in 1981, when Penn State reached the NCAA Regional Semifinals), and 26-15 (in 1982, when Penn State competed in the NCAA First Round), winning letters in each of those seasons. The 1981 team’s 44-5 record remains tied (with the 1990 team) for most wins in Penn State Women’s Volleyball history.

Lori is quick to acknowledge how important both Sheron Watson (whose all-time coaching record was 642-48) and Russ Rose (whose record stands at 963-159, an .858 winning percentage that ranks first in NCAA history) have been to her career. As she notes on the Slippery Rock University web site: “I believe that I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play for two coaches the caliber of Sheron Watson and Russ Rose. . . . Not only were they well versed in the technical aspects of the sport of volleyball, but they were also successful in motivating people to play beyond their perceived potential.” Commenting on Coach Watson in a 2008 interview with Bill Hartlep, Lokash observed “She had as much talent as anyone else. She just did a better job of putting the package together. . . . Our teams were confident in their ability. She instilled confidence in us. You believed, because you were so prepared, that there wasn’t anyone good enough to beat you.”

Lori has been the head coach at Slippery Rock University for 26 years, with a record of 541-376 (the most wins of any volleyball coach in Slippery Rock history), five PSAC -Western Division titles, and two PSAC league championships. When Coach Lokash was named to the PVCA Hall of Fame in 2002, she joined an illustrious group that also includes Penn State Women’s Volleyball players Lauren Cacciamani-Tom, JoAnn Elwell, Ellen Hensler, Leanne Kling (now Leanne Piscotty), Bonnie Bremner Pettigrew, Lori Barberich Rose, Terri Zemaitis-Boumans, former Penn State Coach Tom Tait, and current Penn State coach Russ Rose.