After more than a quarter of a century developing the Pepperdine women’s volleyball program into a perennial top 25 entity and a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament, Nina Matthies retired from coaching the indoor game following the 2013 season, her 31st on the sidelines. Matthies continues to guide the Waves’ beach team, and enters her sixth year with the squad in 2016-17.
Matthies’ legacy extends far beyond Pepperdine and the volleyball court inside Firestone Fieldhouse. Several years ago Matthies, along with a committee of coaches and AVCA members, began campaigning to add beach volleyball to the list of NCAA sponsored sports. The NCAA announced “sand volleyball” as an emerging sport in January 2010, and Pepperdine officially added the program to its ranks in August 2011. The sport experienced record-breaking growth and became an NCAA championship sport prior to the 2016 campaign, being rebranded as “beach volleyball” in the process.
She was honored with an AVCA Hall of Fame induction in 2015.
In the sports first NCAA championship season, the Waves earned a berth to the inaugural tournament after also winning the first-ever West Coast Conference Championships in Santa Monica, Calif. The NCAA Tournament took place in Gulf Shores, Ala. and Pepperdine entered the field of eight as the No. 3-seeded squad.
The 2016 squad was ranked at the top of the AVCA Coaches Poll throughout six weeks of the regular season, going undefeated for a 14-0 record to start the season. The Waves closed out the 2016 campaign ranked fifth in the nation in the final AVCA Coaches Poll and ended play with a 20-5 overall record.
During the inaugural season in the spring of 2012, the Waves won the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship in Gulf Shores, Ala., becoming the first Pepperdine women to take home a national title. Racich, along with transfer Summer Ross, won the individual pairs championship.
Racich and Ross, as well as the Waves’ #2 pair of Kim Hill and Lilla Frederick were all named to the inaugural 10-member AVCA All-American class.
The following season, Pepperdine once again reached the finals of the national championship. Racich, Hill and Frederick repeated as AVCA All-Americans, and were joined by Lara Dykstra. Additionally, Matthies was honored as the inaugural winner of the AVCA Sand Volleyball Coach of the Year award in 2013.
The Waves returned to the top in 2014, winning the national championship for the second time in three seasons in 2014. Once again, four Pepperdine players earned All-American status, including Dykstra, Kelley Larsen, Becca Strehlow and Kellie Woolever.
Pepperdine returned to Gulf Shores in 2015, placing third in the team competition. Woolever and Larsen repeated as All-Americans.
In 2016, Matthies earned status as the WCC Coach of the Year, while Taylor Racich and Heidi Dyer earned Pepperdine’s ninth and 10th AVCA All-American honors. Six Waves were also tabbed to WCC All-Conference teams, including three to each first and second teams.
After serving as chair of the AVCA Sand Volleyball Head Coaches’ Committee, Matthies is also a part of the NCAA Beach Volleyball committee.
Nationally recognized as one of the game’s top teachers, Matthies led the Waves’ indoor squad to 11 West Coast Conference titles and 20 NCAA Tournament appearances. She retired as the WCC’s all-time winningest coach with a career overall mark of 590-343 (.632) and a conference record of 320-90 (.780).
She won her milestone 500th victory on Sept. 11, 2009 against Seattle.
Matthies has been honored as the WCC’s Coach of the Year seven times and as co-Coach of the Year an additional three times during her tenure indoor. Three times her coaching prowess has led to national recognition, as she was the 1999 District 8 Coach of the Year, the 2002 Pacific Region Coach of the Year and the 2003 Pacific Region co-Coach of the Year.
Under Matthies, Pepperdine has ended the season with a #6 national ranking on three occasions (2002, 2003 and 2011) and has finished the season ranked in the AVCA Top-25 14 times. In the NCAA Tournament, her teams have advanced to the Regional Semifinals six times and made the 2002 and 2011 Regional Finals.
Her eye for talent and complete knowledge of the sport has produced 48 student-athletes who have taken home a combined 115 All-WCC awards, including 65 first team accolades. Pepperdine has produced nine conference Player of the Year honorees, including the only three-time recipient in Katie Wilkins, who was recognized in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Eleven players have received Freshman of the Year accolades under Matthies, the most recent coming in 2011 with middle blocker Samantha Cash. Stevi Robinson was a two-time recipient of the WCC Defensive Player of the Year title, as a freshman in 2008 and again as a junior in 2010. Other Waves to take home the honor include Kakai Crabbe (2006), Christina Hinds (2003) and Melissa Snow (2001).
Under Matthies’ leadership, Wilkins became the first Pepperdine women’s volleyball player to be recognized as a first team All-American following her 2003 senior season. She was a second team All-American in both 2001 and 2002. Wilkins was the starting outside hitter on the U.S. National Team in summer 2007.
Hill became the Waves’ second-ever AVCA All-American first team selection in 2011 after picking up honorable mention status in 2009 and 2010. She will go down in NCAA history as the first and to date only student-athlete to make the first team in both indoor and sand volleyball in the same season, having achieved the feat during the 2011-12 campaign. Since graduation, Hill has played with the U.S. National Team at several international competitions under head coach Karch Kiraly and also plays professionally in Poland.
A total of 10 of Matthies’ players have been named to an All-American team. Thirteen different student-athletes have earned 18 AVCA All-Region honors, with Wilkins earning three from 2001-03. Hill also three-peated on the all-region list from 2009-11.
Matthies was hired prior to the 1983 season, becoming just the third head coach in program history, and it didn’t take long for her to start instilling a tradition of winning at Pepperdine, leading the Waves to consecutive 20-win seasons in 1984 and 1985. Since then, Matthies-led squads have topped the 20-win mark a total of 16 times, including a streak of five straight seasons from 1999-2003.
When the WCC began sponsoring women’s volleyball in 1985, Matthies set the tone for what has been a recurring theme in the conference’s history by leading the team to the first of nine undefeated WCC schedules (1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003). The following year, Pepperdine went on a record run of 41 straight home conference victories that lasted until the 1992 season.
In fact, Pepperdine has dominated its conference counterparts for long stretches of time, twice posting WCC win streaks of 40-plus matches. Beginning with the final five WCC matches in 1988, the Waves did not lose another conference match until falling 3-2 at Portland in the 1992 WCC opener. The streak lasted 47 matches.
The only threat to Pepperdine’s streak started during the 2001 season. That year, the Waves began a stretch of three straight undefeated WCC seasons. The streak reached 43 straight before Saint Mary’s played the spoiler’s role in the second match of the 2004 conference season.
Matthies led Pepperdine to its third-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 1984, just her second season in Malibu. But the journey was short-lived as the team dropped a five-game heartbreaker to USC. The Waves missed the postseason the following year before making six-straight trips to the NCAA Tournament from 1986-91. Although the Waves lost their first 10 NCAA Tournament matches, in 1998 things began to turn around as the NCAA went to a national seeding tournament format.
Following a 19-11 record in the 1998 regular season, Matthies and the Waves were shipped out to East Lansing, Mich., where they topped host Michigan State, 3-2. But one victory was not enough and the team swept North Carolina in the second round to earn the school’s first trip to the NCAA Regional Semifinals. In Lincoln, Neb., the Waves fell to the host Cornhuskers, 3-2.
Matthies led her squad back to the Regional Semifinals the following year, 1999, after earning the right to host the first and second rounds for the first time in program history.
The 2003 season was one for the record books as the team posted 27 wins (the most by a Matthies-led team), including a record 25 straight before falling to Minnesota in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. That season, Pepperdine reached its highest in-season ranking in the AVCA poll at #4. The team also earned the program’s first #1 regional seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Following wins over BYU and USC, the 2005 squad also advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals. The 2006, 2007 and 2008 teams each bowed out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Waves had a banner year in 2011, finishing the season with a 25-7 record and ranked #6 in the final AVCA Coaches’ Poll. After winning yet another WCC title with a 15-1 record, Pepperdine played host to the NCAA first and second rounds. Pepperdine shut out Missouri State and North Carolina, before blanking Kansas State in the Regional Semifinals in Honolulu, Hawaii. USC escaped with a 3-2 win over the Waves in the regional final.
Collegiately, Matthies was a two-year team captain at UCLA. She led both her 1974 and 1975 Bruin teams to AIAW national titles. In 1987, her #36 jersey was retired. In 1997, she was honored as one of “The 25 Greatest Players in UCLA History.”
In 1971, she represented the United States at the Pan Am Games. She continued playing indoors professionally in the International Volleyball Association and the former Women’s Professional League.
While enjoying a successful indoor career, Matthies also competed on the beach, where she was widely recognized as one of the world’s top volleyball players. In 139 career starts on the beach, she won 43 titles and earned 93 podium finishes. She officially retired from competition following the 1992 summer campaign.
In December 2004, she was honored with seven plaques at the legendary Manhattan Beach Volleyball Walk of Fame. The plaques represented each one of her Manhattan Beach Open titles. Her success on the beach landed her a spot in the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Matthies spearheaded a successful effort in the mid-80s to create the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association. The WPVA laid the groundwork for the dramatically enhanced national visibility of the women’s beach tour. She was inducted into the WPVA’s Hall of Fame in 1995 and was honored as one of the “20 Legends of Beach Volleyball” in a ceremony at UCLA in 1997.
Volleyball Magazine named Matthies as one of the “Most Influential People in the First 100 Years of Volleyball.” In 2004, she was named to the 75th Anniversary All-Era Team by USA Volleyball.
Matthies began her coaching career under her former coach Andy Banachowski in 1977, and spent six years at UCLA as an assistant coach before moving over to Malibu.
A resident of Malibu, Matthies lives in a Decker Canyon home with her husband, Dan. The couple has two sons, Morgan and Marty. Morgan enjoyed a successful water polo career at Pepperdine before graduating in May 2004. He married fellow Pepperdine graduate Meghan Smith in May 2008 and the couple has two children. Nina and Dan’s younger son, Marty, was a four-year member of the California water polo team and served as a team captain during the Bears’ 2006 national championship season. He graduated in 2008 and went on to train with the national team. In the summer of 2014, Marty was named head coach of the women’s water polo team at Cal State Northridge. Nina and Marty are a rare combo, as two generations of active head coaches at the NCAA Division I level.