David Schwepker started his career as a volleyball coach nearly 20 years ago at Southeast Missouri State. Since then, he has led Murray State to OVC and NCAA tournaments, reached 200 wins with the Racers and dealt with serious family concerns.
As Schwepker enters his 15th year as head coach, he expresses his appreciation for Murray State. He holds the longest tenure of any volleyball coach in the OVC, equal only to Lori Duncan at Eastern Kentucky University. He is also the first volleyball coach and the 19th coach to serve more than 10 seasons at Murray State.
“I feel fortunate I’ve been able to be here this long,” Schwepker said. “I love Murray State and I’m happy to keep getting to stay here. Murray didn’t just throw me out when I’ve had a few bad years. I’m very fortunate.”
Despite a few rough seasons, Schwepker has led the Racers to more success than any coach in University history. After winning an OVC Tournament title in 2003, the Racers participated in their first NCAA Tournament game.
In November of 2008, Schwepker became the first coach at Murray State to win 100 OVC matches. Last season, he reached 200 career wins after defeating UT Martin at home.
Not only has Schwepker led the team to many accomplishments, he has also motivated individual women to gain recognition in their positions. While at Murray State, 48 all-conference honors have been given to women on his team. Some of these honors include four OVC Players of the Year and the OVC’s first All-American.
Throughout Schwepker’s tenure, players have shattered several Racer volleyball records. In 2011 Becca Lamb ended her season with 1,152 kills, 3,198 attacks and 193 blocks. Also in 2011, Jade Guo finished second in the record books with 3,525 assists.
Schwepker said he has grown tremendously as a coach in the last 15 years.
“Playing for me when I was younger was probably a lot crazier,” Schwepker said. “I’m pretty calm and level-headed now. Things can be really stable with the team.”
Before coaching for Murray State, Schwepker worked three years at Tennessee State where he led the Tigers to their most successful season. At his alma mater, SEMO, Schwepker was an assistant coach with the 1994 OVC Championship team.
“I learned a lot at SEMO, the head coach was very successful,” Schwepker said. “It was a great experience.”
Eventually, Schwepker hopes to drive Murray State into harder matches against bigger schools such as Louisville, Michigan and Indiana. Higher competition and learning experience will help the players truly improve their game, Schwepker said. He said balance between confidence and hard competition is important in women’s sports.
Schwepker said he owes his success at Murray State to the support his family has given him over the years. He said he understands how stressful the job can sometimes be on his wife, Kendra and his three sons.
“She just had to get used to me being gone all the time,” Schwepker said. “I just really appreciate her support. The kids don’t get it just yet, but they’re starting to understand the sport and support me, too. They’re pretty tough on me when I lose.”
In the past three years alone, the Racers have raised more than $9,500 for local and national cancer charities after Schwepker’s wife Kendra was diagnosed with brain cancer. Schwepker said he was so proud and appreciative of community support while Kendra was fighting the disease.
“When everything started to return to normal, we knew we needed to help other people,” Schwepker said.
Although Schwepker knows wins are important to Murray State, he wants much more for the women on the volleyball team. He wants to help motivate their transitions from freshmen to mature, successful women.
“I want girls to feel like I’ve made a difference in their lives when they leave here; I hope to grow them up a little bit,” Schwepker said.
Schwepker said he could not imagine being anywhere besides Murray State, and hopes for many successful seasons. He said nothing would make him happier than a full Racer Arena and a win Sept. 21 against Tennessee Tech.
Story by Lexy Gross, Staff Writer.