Holly Strauss-O'Brien is the sixth head coach in the 34-year history of Connecticut volleyball and is entering her eighth season at the helm. In the past seven seasons, Strauss-O'Brien has transformed UConn volleyball into a competitive program in the challenging BIG EAST Conference and led the team to four-straight BIG EAST Tournament berths from 2006-2009.
Entering 2012, Strauss-O'Brien owns an overall record of 108-97. She has posted a 48-50 mark in the BIG EAST over the last seven seasons. In a 3-0 victory over New Hampshire at the Holly Young Invitational on September 10, 2011, Strauss-O'Brien recorded the 100th win of her career.
Under the direction of Strauss-O'Brien, seven players have garnered post season awards from the BIG EAST. Most recently, Jordan Kirk (2011) and Rebecca Murray (2009) were named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team. In 2008, Annie Luhrsen earned a spot on the All-BIG EAST First Team and was named the conference's Rookie of the Year, becomming the first major conference award winner since 1995, while Chauncey Mickens was named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team. Prior to that, Sadé Chambers (2007) earned a spot on the First Team and Bridget Denson-Dorman (2006, 2007) and Jenny Neelands (2005) each made their way on to the Second Team. In 2011, Kirk became the 13th player under Strauss-O'Brien to record 1,000 career kills.Chambers and Luhrsen marked the first time in program history that UConn student-athletes have been named to the first team in consecutive seasons since a back-to-back effort in 1998 and 1999.
Murray was the offensive leader on the 2009 squad that finished the season with a 14-17 overall record. An even 7-7 record in the conference and led the team to the BIG EAST Tournament, letting the senior class graduate with four-consecutive post-season appearances. Strauss-O'Brien's 2008 squad finished the year with a 21-11 overall record whilst compiling a 10-4 BIG EAST mark for the most conference victories since the program captured a share of the regular season championship title in 1998. The double-digit win effort also gave the team the No. 4 seed in the BIG EAST Tournament for its third-straight postseason appearance and highest seeding under Strauss-O'Brien's direction.
In 2007, the Huskies reached the BIG EAST Tournament, finishing the regular season in a three-way tie for sixth place with an identical record from a year before. The 2006 squad finished the year with a 19-11 overall record and 8-6 mark in conference play earning a spot in the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time since 2002. That squad fell to a highly talented Louisville program in four sets as the seventh seed.
The leadership Strauss-O'Brien possesses extends far beyond the court, as 19 team members have earned Director of Athletics Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll status and 17 have been named BIG EAST Academic All-Stars for their achievements in the classroom. "The program is rapidly laying down the foundation for future success on the court and in the classroom," said Strauss-O'Brien. "Our program is full of change...an exciting change."
The 2008 season marked the highest season winning-percentage of Strauss-O'Brien's career, leading the team to its first 20-or-more win season since the 2003 season. She was acknowledged by her peers as one of the American Volleyball Coaches Association's (AVCA) "30 Under 30 Award" recipients in 2008. In its inaugural year, the AVCA award recognized 30 up-and-coming volleyball coaches at all levels of the sport.
Strauss-O'Brien began her mentorship at UConn as an assistant coach with the Huskies prior to being named the head coach in 2005. As a graduate assistant during the 2003 season, she helped the team to a 20-12 record, a six-match improvement from the previous season, before Strauss-O'Brien became the program's full-time assistant at the start of the 2004 campaign. She was appointed as the interim head coach midway through the 2004 season. The team responded to Strauss-O'Brien's guidance by winning six of seven matches under her leadership. The 2004 team concluded the season with a 17-11 record, posting a 6-4 mark in BIG EAST play.
"Coach Strauss-O'Brien is one of the best young coaches in volleyball and has resurrected the UConn program with vision, energy, commitment and passion," said then Associate Athletic Director and Program Administrator Vaughn Williams. "There is no doubt that this program is headed in the right direction."
Prior to Strauss-O'Brien's arrival in Storrs, she served as a coach for the Triangle Volleyball Club 17s in Durham, N.C. where she led the team to a Regional Championship title.
Strauss-O'Brien enjoyed an illustrious playing career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she helped put together a 115-22 (.839) record in her four seasons with the team. In that span, the Tar Heels went 32-4 in 2002 with a trip to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in addition to three Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament titles and a pair of ACC regular season crowns. Strauss-O'Brien was a two-time team captain and remains UNC's career-leader in blocks per game (1.24 bbg), totaling 311 block assists to place her second on the all-time career list.
In addition, Strauss-O'Brien posted the fifth-best single-season total with 36 solo blocks in 2001. She has twice etched her name on the season block assist record list with 128 in 2001 (fourth) and 24 in 2000 (fifth). She graduated from North Carolina with a bachelor's degree in psychology before receiving her master's degree in kinesiology, sport management and sociology of sport at UConn in 2005.
A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Strauss-O'Brien gained international playing experience as a member of the Canadian Junior National Team from 1996-98, making the All-Star team at the Cuba Invitational. She and Tim O'Brien were married on May 24, 2008 and they reside in Vernon, Conn.