Sean Burdette | Head Coach
On Jan. 18, 2018, Sean Burdette was named the ninth head coach in University of Memphis volleyball program history. Burdette comes to the Bluff City from his head coach position at Green Bay, where he guided the Phoenix the last four seasons (2014-17). Prior to his time at Green Bay, Burdette served as an assistant coach for the Ole Miss volleyball program from 2011-13.
"First, I want to thank Director of Athletics Tom Bowen, Search Chair and Deputy Director of Athletics Mark Alnutt, and committee members Courtney Vinson, Associate Athletics Director/Sport Services and Senior Women's Administrator, and Dwight Boyd, Assistant Athletics Director/Community Relations, for this incredible opportunity to lead the University of Memphis Tigers volleyball program.
"Additionally, I would like to thank my wonderful wife, Jacqueline, and our three daughters, Brinley, Carlyn and Chase for their unwavering support in this decision and moving back to the Mid-South.
"From my first conversations with the committee, I could see and share their vision for and commitment to the student-athletes. When the administration laid out the future plans for volleyball, it fell directly in line with what I was looking for in a program, and also goes hand-in-hand with the values in which I want to run our program.
"The rich history of the city of Memphis, the prestige and nationally-ranked academic programs of the University, and the commitment to having a championship experience are what makes the University of Memphis an ideal destination for future Tigers. I cannot wait to hit the ground running, start working with our incredible student-athletes and building a championship program. This is a great day to be a Tiger!"
In his four seasons at Green Bay, Burdette produced a remarkable turnaround. He took over the program in 2014 and won only five matches that first season. However, two seasons later, Burdette's 2016 squad won 21 matches (21-9 record), placed second in the Horizon League regular-season standings (12-4 conference record) and finished runner-up in the Horizon League Tournament.
The 21 victories were the most since 2003 and the second-most since it moved to NCAA Division I in 1988. The 12 Horizon League wins were a school record. For his efforts, Burdette was named the 2016 Horizon League co-Coach of the Year.
Burdette, though, wasn't a "one-hit" wonder at Green Bay. He directed the Phoenix to a 17-13 record in 2015 – a 12-match improvement from 2014 – and a 17-16 mark in 2017. He is the first head coach in Green Bay volleyball history to have three-straight winning campaigns, and the 55 victories from 2015-17 are the most for a three-year span in program history.
"I'm excited to have Sean join the Memphis Tigers athletics family and take over the reins of our volleyball program," said Bowen. "Sean has a great coaching pedigree and has shown the ability to not only build a program, but also develop student-athletes on and off the court. We welcome Sean and his family to Memphis, and we're looking forward to see the heights the Tigers volleyball program reaches under his direction."
This past season, Burdette's Phoenix posted a 17-16 overall record, but his squad had an impressive postseason. Green Bay, which placed fourth in the Horizon League regular season (9-7 record), put together a run in the conference tournament that took the Phoenix to the title match, where it fell to No. 1 seed Cleveland State.
The Phoenix earned a National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) berth and advanced to the regional finals round (final 8). Green Bay defeated Bowling Green and Illinois State in the first two rounds before falling to TCU in the regional final. The NIVC bid was only the second postseason tournament appearance in program history and the first since 2003.
Burdette's 2015 team went 17-13 and placed fifth in the Horizon League.
From 2014-16, his program improved its RPI by over 170 spots. The 2014 Phoenix RPI was 246, and their 2016 RPI was 75. In 2017, Green Bay had the Horizon League's second-highest RPI at 105 (Cleveland State was 67).
Burdette also has a proven track record in player development. At Green Bay, he coached six All-Horizon League selections, three All-Horizon League Freshman Team picks, the 2015 Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year and the 2017 Horizon League Freshman of the Year.
His squads performed well on the court and in the classroom. From 2014-16, his teams maintained a 3.60 or higher grade-point average and earned three-straight American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Awards. Four of Burdette's players also received All-Horizon League Academic Team honors.
Prior to taking over the Green Bay program, Burdette spent three seasons (2011-13) as an assistant coach at Ole Miss. While in Oxford, he helped coach two All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) Freshman Team picks and one AVCA All-America selection. Burdette also helped recruit two of the nation's top-100 players in the Rebels' 2013 signing class.
Burdette had previous coaching stints at Bradley (head coach; 2008-10), Ohio State (assistant coach; 2003-08), Towson (associate head coach; 2000-03) and Pittsburgh (assistant coach; 1997-2000).
He is a 1997 graduate of Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio. Burdette played on the men's volleyball club team at Ohio State University from 1990-93. He helped lead the 1993 Buckeyes squad to Big Ten Conference and Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) championships. Burdette earned both All-Big Ten and All-MIVA first team accolades in 1993.
The Silver Spring, Md., native is married to the former Jacqueline Bunting, and the couple has three daughters: Brinley, Carlyn and Chase.
Burdette takes over the reins of the Memphis program from April Jauregui, who coached the Tigers for 10 seasons from 2008-17.
Taylor Unroe | Associate Coach
Taylor Unroe has joined the University of Memphis volleyball staff as an associate coach, head coach Sean Burdette announced Thursday. Unroe had served as an assistant coach at Mississippi State the past year.
Unroe will be in charge of the team’s defensive systems and will work with the program’s outside hitters, liberos and backcourt personnel.
“I am thrilled to add Taylor to our staff as she fit exactly what we were looking for with her high-level playing experience, recruiting and training of systems and techniques,” said Burdette, who enters his second season as the Tigers head coach in 2019. “One of the main things that really stood out is her ability to connect with people from recruits to student-athletes, alums, administrators and other coaches.
“Taylor brings a unique skill set to coaching, as she has played multiple different positions at a very high level in high school and club volleyball and at the University of Florida. Having coached against her during my time at Ole Miss, I know she is a fierce competitor and that has carried over into her coaching career.
“She brings a fantastic perspective on training from her time as a student-athlete at Florida to her coaching stops at George Mason, High Point and Mississippi State. Taylor will be heavily involved in our day-to-day recruiting efforts as she has great ideas and connections with club and high school coaches.”
Prior to her one season at Mississippi State, Unroe spent the 2017 campaign at High Point and served as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator. She helped guide High Point to a 24-8 overall record and a perfect 16-0 Big South Conference mark. The Panthers earned an at-large bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament, the first High Point program in any sport to receive an at-large NCAA postseason bid. The Panthers also earned 11 Big South Conference postseason honors.
“The most exciting thing about Memphis volleyball is Sean’s (Burdette) ability to build,” Unroe said. “He’s a proven builder in our profession, and that is rare. What makes me excited about coming here is working with someone who can build a program up to a championship level.
“Memphis has a vibrant club volleyball scene, and the surrounding states also have good junior programs. We’re in a really good location, and Memphis has a lot of high-level players. We have a good recruiting base here.
“I believe in being a student of the game, reading situations and analyzing what’s happening on the other side of the net. To play at the highest level, you just can’t react; you have to anticipate. My head coach (at Florida) was great in empowering us to be good people, good teammates and having success in the classroom. I believe in that too, and I want to empower our student-athletes to be winners in other parts of their lives, not only volleyball.”
As an assistant coach at George Mason in 2015 and 2016, Unroe was the program’s defensive coordinator and passing coach. Under her direction, the Patriots led the Atlantic 10 Conference in digs for the first time since the school joined the league. Unroe also coached the squad to its best finish in blocks since joining the league.
Before jumping to the coaching ranks, Unroe had a stellar four-year playing career at Florida (2011-14) under head coach Mary Wise. Unroe helped lead the Gators to four-straight, 25-plus win seasons, four-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, two Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships (2012, 2014) and two NCAA Tournament regional finals. With Unroe on the floor, Florida compiled an incredible 110-19 overall record and a 70-6 SEC mark.
Unroe was named the 2013 SEC Libero of the Year, the first Gator to earn the honor in program history. Her name still appears on Florida’s all-time charts for sets played (5th; 449), digs (2nd; 1,558) and aces (9th; 130). Unroe also was a member of the 2010 Florida team, but was redshirted that season. The 2010 Gators went 29-2 overall and 20-0 in the SEC, winning the league title and advancing to the NCAA regional semifinals.
A Muncie, Ind., native, Unroe graduated from the Florida with a bachelor’s degree in family, youth and community science in 2014. A year later, she earned her master’s degree in the same field from Florida.
Prior to her college career, Unroe was a member of the Muncie Burris High School program that won four-straight Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state titles, including her senior campaign in 2009 when the Owls went 40-0. As a senior, Unroe was named the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year, and she was selected a 2009 Under Armour Girls High School All-American.
Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Alexa Wharton has joined the University of Memphis volleyball staff as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, head coach Sean Burdette announced Tuesday. Wharton also served as an assistant for Burdette at Green Bay in 2017.
In her one season in Green Bay, Wharton helped direct the Phoenix to a 17-16 overall record, including a 9-7 Horizon League mark. Green Bay came on strong in the 2017 postseason with a 4-2 record, advancing to the Horizon League championship match and the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) quarterfinal round.
"I am very excited to announce the addition of Alexa to our staff," said Burdette, who took over the reins of the Memphis program in January. "With her background as player and coach at various levels of the NCAA, Alexa is very driven and self-motivated to bring fresh ideas and knowledge to the Tigers volleyball program.
"Alexa was an integral part of my staff and success last year at Green Bay, where we had one of our most successful seasons with a second-consecutive appearance in the Horizon League Championship match and a Final Eight finish in the NIVC Tournament. Alexa, who will be our recruiting coordinator, fits in well with our program's philosophy and what we are looking to build here at Memphis. She has a unique ability to identify talent and find various ways to connect with prospective student-athletes."
Wharton also played a major role in player development at Green Bay. She helped coach two All-Horizon League first team picks (Lydia DeWeese, Taylor Wolf), two Horizon League All-Freshman Team selections (Roberta Todd, Wolf) and an All-Horizon League honorable mention performer (Maddie Yoss). Wolf also was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year.
In addition, DeWeese wrapped up her collegiate career with 1,042 kills and a program-record .353 hitting percentage, and she also led the conference in hitting percentage (.339) in 2017. Yoss led the Horizon League in assists (1,330) and ranked 16th nationally in assists per set (11.38) last season.
"I'm honored to be a part of the Memphis staff," said Wharton. "I'm fortunate to be working with (head coach) Sean (Burdette) again. He's an experienced coach, and he knows the Mid-South area from his time at Ole Miss. I believe Sean will move this program in the right direction, and I'm excited to work with him in helping build a bright future for Tigers volleyball."
Prior to her time in Green Bay, Wharton served as an assistant coach at NCAA Division III powerhouse University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Wharton was a member of the staff that guided the Warhawks to an undefeated home record (32-0), one Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) regular-season title (2015), back-to-back WIAC Tournament crowns and consecutive NCAA Division III Tournament appearances over those two campaigns. UW-Whitewater advanced to the 2016 NCAA Division III Sweet 16.
The Warhawks, ranked No. 1 in the Midwest Region, were selected to host the NCAA Division III Region Championship both seasons. Wharton assisted in the event management of the regionals.
As the Warhawks assistant that worked with setting/defense, Wharton helped develop American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Americans at both setter and libero. Before her time at UW-Whitewater, Wharton served as a graduate assistant at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio, for the 2014 campaign.
Wharton was a volleyball student-athlete at Heidelberg from 2010-13. A four-year starter at setter, Wharton helped lead The 'Berg to three Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) crowns in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and three NCAA Division III Tournament appearances in 2010, 2011 and 2012. She was an All-OAC honoree in 2013 and finished her career in the No. 6 spot on Heidelberg's all-time assists chart.
Wharton, a Tiffin native, graduated from Heidelberg with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology in May 2014. She earned her Master of Science in Education from UW-Whitewater in May 2017.