Ferris head volleyball coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm is in the midst of her 23rd season coaching the Ferris women’s volleyball team. Over her time at the helm of the program, Brandel-Wilhelm has led the Bulldogs to nothing but success on the court.
Since taking over as head coach in 1996, Brandel-Wilhelm has guided the Bulldogs to 12 NCAA Division ll National Tournament appearances, including 10 in the past 13 seasons. She has also helped the Bulldogs compile 20 straight winning seasons and has led the team to four consecutive seasons in which they have won both the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Regular Season Championship and the GLIAC Tournament Title.
In her career, Brandel-Wilhelm has a coaching record of 630-228. This season, she has coached the Bulldogs to a 19-4 record, and they rank No. 10 in the nation.
These are all impressive numbers, but they don’t even tell half the story. In fact, Brandel-Wilhelm wasn’t even aware of these accomplishments when they were brought up to her.
“I had no idea. The university expects us to go out and represent them well, and to go out and try to win every game that we play in and to win championships,” Brandel-Wilhelm said.
She said that while winning is important, there are far more important things out there.
“Striving to win is the important thing. We obviously want to win, and we work really hard on the volleyball court, but the striving to win and overcoming the obstacles that come our way are the powerful things,” Brandel-Wilhelm said. “We hope if we do everything right, the wins will come.”
On the court, a common thing pointed out by a couple of players was that Brandel-Wilhelm loves the mental aspect of the sport, and that’s what her number one priority is when they start each season.
“When we’re on the court, she really likes the mental aspect of the game, so she really focuses in on that and makes sure that we’re mentally prepared going into each and every season,” Ferris junior setter Maeve Grimes said.
Brandel-Wilhelm expanded on this notion when talking about adversity and how much this program welcomes it to be able to grow in the mental phase of the game.
“We love adversity. We like to rub our hands together and get dirty when adversity comes our way. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be challenged,” Brandel-Wilhelm said. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to find out what we’re really made of. So, adversity is what makes us who we are, so we welcome it when it comes, and we seek it as much as we can.”
It seems like this mindset has done wonders for the program regarding wins and championships on the court, but perhaps it has achieved even more concerning how successful the program is off the court as well.
While talking about Brandel-Wilhelm as a coach, multiple players also spoke about their love for their coach as a mentor and as someone who they could talk to if they ever needed help or advice. Brandel-Wilhelm was especially praised for her ability to be a coach first and a friendly face second.
Grimes said that her main reason for coming to Ferris was because of the type of person that Brandel-Wilhelm is.
“She was why I came to Ferris. She was such a good recruiter and was super friendly, and when she would watch me play in high school, she would sit by my sister and talk with her, and that was what sold Ferris for me,” Grimes said.
Some of the volleyball players describe their coach as a role model, a teacher and a friend.
“I love coaching here, and I think Ferris is just such an amazing school. I walk into the office from my car, and I’m really giddy and just super excited that I get to do this each and every day,” Brandel-Wilhelm said. “If I had won that lottery a couple days ago, I would still be here coaching. This is everything. This is exactly where I’m meant to be. I’m really excited that I get to be here.”
Brandel-Wilhelm and her Bulldogs wrap up the regular season as they head north to take on two GLIAC opponents in Michigan Tech. University 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, and Northern Michigan University 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3.