Leslie Gabriel has been part of 618 victories and five NCAA Final Fours with the Huskies’ women’s volleyball program over 26 years—as a player, assistant coach and associate head coach. Now, as the team’s new head coach, she is poised to lead one of the nation’s most successful programs.
What’s it like to be in charge?
If you would have told me 28 years ago that I would have spent 26 of the next 28 years of my life on the sidelines of Husky volleyball, I would not have believed you. It’s been a dream of mine to be the head coach here, and I’m beyond excited to lead the women in this program.
What is special about UW volleyball?
We have one of the most passionate and loyal fan bases that supports us in one of the best places to watch volleyball in the country. And the Pac-12 Conference is one of the premier volleyball conferences in the country.
What is your outlook going into the season?
We will continue to strive to win national and Pac-12 championships. And we will graduate every player with a degree from the University of Washington. I want our players to be the best students, the best volleyball players and the best people. But it takes a daily commitment. Are we giving everything that we have in all that we do? Are we doing the little things we need to do before, during and after practice? Do we play with an attitude to win each point? That’s all I am going to ask these women to do. I told the team that becoming great is a choice. So, each day, we are learning how to make those great choices.
What is your vision to win another national championship?
It takes a lot of hard work to win a national championship. I’m all about improvement. Can we get 1% better each day? I’m going to study this game, and we are going to have standards.
You’re losing a tremendous senior class. How do you replace those players?
The senior class laid a great a foundation, but I am really excited for the future and the women that we have on our team right now. I am excited to see how these women take on new roles. As a coach, I want to give them the tools to help.
Has it sunk in yet?
I don’t know that it has. I remember the day when [Director of Athletics] Jen Cohen called me and offered me the job. I went “Woohoo, yes!” But then my brain went, “Checklist, checklist, checklist, this is what you have to do.” I feel like I have been on the run, but I am really excited to be here.
Tell us about your personality.
I’m all about hard work and giving everything that you can. That’s something I am going to demand of our players. Can we give it all we have, and can we compete? Let’s go out and win. I’m going to coach with that intensity and demand that from them: that we just go hard.