Head Coach Wade Benson
Already a household name within the Spokane and Cheney communities, Wade Benson returned to Eastern Washington University in 2013 to once again serve as head volleyball coach for the Eagles.
Benson was the head coach at Eastern from 2000-06, compiling an impressive record of 154-55 (.737) - the best winning percentage of any coach in school history. His Big Sky record during that time of 78-24 (.765) still ranks among the top four in conference history.
Benson led the Eagles to six-consecutive 20-win seasons, three Big Sky regular-season titles and one tournament title in 2001. The Eagles played in the Big Sky Championship match each of his seven years at the helm. After earning the automatic bid to the NCAA National Championship in 2001, Benson’s team upset Oregon State, 3-2, in the first round to advance to the second round of the tournament, which is still the best postseason run by any Big Sky team in history.
In 2002, Benson directed the Eagles to a 29-2 overall record, which remains as the best single-season record of any Big Sky team throughout history. That year, the Eagles also made the USA Today/AVCA Division I Top 25 poll for the first time, and earned a ranking as high as No. 15 in the nation, which marked another all-time league record.
Benson's teams at Eastern Washington also experienced success in the classroom and in attendance at Reese Court. Five of Benson’s squads received the AVCA Team Academic Award, while his players were honored 59 times on the Big Sky All-Academic list from 2000-2006. In addition, Eastern averaged more than 1,000 fans per match in each of his seven seasons and ranked in the top 30 nationally in attendance. He earned an impressive 60-9 home record while at EWU.
Benson left Eastern following the 2006 season for an assistant coaching position at Auburn. After one year with the Tigers, he was promoted to head coach. In just three seasons at the helm, Benson took Auburn from a 6-25 team in 2008 to a national-tournament contender in 2010 with 21-13 record. Those 21 overall wins were the most the team had since 1998, while his 11 victories in Southeastern Conference play tied a school record. That same year, the Tigers earned an at-large bid to the 2010 NCAA National Championship - Auburn’s first appearance in school history. The team went on to win its first-round matchup against Missouri State, 3-0.
After his first full year of recruiting at Auburn, Benson pulled in the nation’s No. 26 recruiting class for 2009, according to PrepVolleyball.com. The nine-member class also ranked third in the SEC. Among the class was outside hitter Sarah Bullock, who was named to the SEC All-Freshmen Team.
Benson had a total of four players named to the All-SEC team from 2008-2010. While at Eastern, he had 16 different players named to the All-Big Sky team, including 12 first-team selections and two Big Sky MVPs. The 2002 MVP, Janelle Ruen, also earned AVCA All-Pacific Honorable Mention accolades.
Benson left Auburn following the 2010 season, and moved with his family to Miramar Beach, Fla. Along with small business endeavors outside of volleyball, Benson coached club volleyball and gave private lessons. He also served as a volleyball consultant, conducting seminars and clinics at various four-year universities and junior colleges around the country.
Prior to his coaching positions at the Division I level at Eastern and Auburn, Benson was the head coach at Western Oregon for one year, where he put together a 42-7 overall record in 1995. His team won the Cascade Collegiate Conference regular-season and tournament titles, and went on to finish third in the 1995 NAIA National Championship.
Aside from his time as a head coach, Benson also has eight years of experience as an assistant. He served under Judy Lovre at Western Oregon for three years, before joining the Eastern Washington staff, where he was an assistant for four years under current SWA, Pamela Parks.
Together, Parks and Benson led the Eagles to three-straight seasons of 22+ wins (1997-99), as well as two Big Sky tournament titles in 1998 and 1999. The Eagles placed third or higher in the Big Sky regular-season standings in each of his 11 seasons as a member of the EWU coaching staff.
During those 11 years in the Spokane area, Benson also served as the club director and head coach of the Spokane Splash Volleyball Club, while also working as camp director of the Northern Exposure Volleyball Camp in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Benson and his wife, Jill, have a 9-year-old son, Brady Jaymz, and a 7-year-old daughter, Bailey Marie.
Benson's wife is the former Jill Haas, who was an All-American volleyball player at Sacramento State from 1994-96. A member of the Sac State Volleyball Hall of Fame, she holds school records in career kills (2,037), single-season kills (798), single-match kills (40) and single-match digs (42). She also ranks sixth all-time in career digs (1,576) and third in single-season digs (619).
Associate Head Coach Darren Buckner
Darren Buckner enters his first season as associate head volleyball coach at Eastern Washington University.
Buckner comes to Cheney with more than 20 years of coaching experience at all levels. He played collegiately at Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach. Calif., and also competed at several USA Volleyball Men’s Open National Championships.
For the past two years, Buckner has been the head volleyball coach at Laramie County Community College in Laramie, Wyo. After taking over the reins of the program in 2011, Buckner led the team to an 18-12 overall record and fourth-place finish in the Region IX North Conference. He had his second-straight winning season in 2012, as the Golden Eagles finished 17-15.
Before earning the head coaching job at LCCC, Buckner spent one season as an assistant coach at UC Davis. With the Mustangs, Buckner not only assisted with all technical development and on-court coaching, but was directly involved with recruiting, scouting, video distribution, budgeting and scheduling for the team. He was also the head administrator for the UC Davis Volleyball Summer Camp.
He has also made stops at Regis University in Denver, Colo., where he was an assistant coach for three seasons from 2001-03, and Jacksonville (Fla.) University.
He has also coached for three nationally-esteemed volleyball clubs, including Nike NW Juniors (Portland, Ore.), Boulder VBC (Boulder, Colo.) and Colorado Performance VBC (Denver, Colo.). Buckner also assisted with two Portland-area high schools and served on collegiate summer camp staffs for more than 15 years.
Buckner graduated from Portland State in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences. Buckner chose PSU after watching his sister, Michelle, play volleyball there for two seasons. Michelle was a 1994 AVCA Second-Team All-American, and a 1994 Volleyball Magazine Third-Team All-American. A setter for the Vikings, she led PSU to back-to-back Pacific West Conference titles, tallying 2,974 assists in her two years, which ranks fifth in the PSU record book.
Buckner was born in Tacoma, Wash., but grew up in Spokane, attending elementary school, middle school and his first two years of high school at Mead, where his father, Tom Buckner, coached track and field. A prominent downhill ski racer in high school, Buckner then moved to Sandy, Ore., where he graduated from the Mt. Hood Ski Education Foundation in 1988.
Buckner, and his wife, Sarah, have two daughters, Ryley (6) and Skylar (3).
Assistant Coach Janelle Allen
Not only is she one of the most decorated athletes in EWU history, but Janelle Allen (formerly Ruen) is arguably the best female athlete to ever come out of the Inland Northwest.
A native of Post Falls, Idaho, Allen enters her first season as an assistant volleyball coach at her alma mater.
Her renowned career started at Post Falls High School, where she was a league MVP in both volleyball and basketball. She earned first-team All-State honors for both sports, and at the time of her graduation, held the Trojan school record for points in basketball and kills in volleyball.
Initially earning a scholarship for basketball, Allen played, and excelled, in both sports at Eastern Washington. She was honored in 2001 and 2002 as the Inland Northwest Female Athlete of the Year by the Spokane Sportswriters and Broadcasters.
Allen completed her final year in volleyball as the 2002 Big Sky Conference MVP after leading Eastern to a 29-2 record and the Big Sky Conference regular-season title. Those 29 wins still remain as the best single-season record of any Big Sky team throughout history.
When she departed EWU, Allen ranked 12th in Big Sky history and third at EWU in career digs with 1,298, while her 1,268 kills ranked second all-time in school history. More than a decade later, she still ranks in the top 10 in both categories at EWU.
Allen is the only Eagle volleyball player to record more than 1,100 kills and 1,100 digs in her career.
A 2002 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Pacific Region honorable mention selection, Allen played in every Eagle volleyball match since her freshman season, appearing in a total of 417 sets. Eastern won 93 of those 120 matches for an impressive winning percentage of .778.
Her 419 kills in 2002 ranked fifth in the EWU single-season record book, as did her 415 digs. She also ranked high in other EWU career categories as well, including kills per game (3.04/fifth), digs per game (3.88/fifth), hitting percentage (.253/sixth), hitting attempts (3,212/third) and service aces (140/second).
In addition to her conference MVP honor, Allen was a first team All-Big Sky and All-Big Sky Tournament selection for two-consecutive years. She won four Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors in 2002 and seven in her career, and won a total of seven all-tournament honors during her tenure.
She became the first female athlete at EWU to receive All-Big Sky honors in two sports in the same year when she was an honorable mention selection in basketball in the 2000-2001 season, after earning second team All-Big Sky honors in volleyball in the fall.
In 56 career games in basketball, Allen averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals, while making 49.3 percent of her field goal attempts and 70.6 percent of her free throws. In the 2002-03 season, Allen helped Eastern to a 17-12 record, which at the time, represented Eastern's most wins since 1988 and a six-game improvement over the previous season.
She earned Academic All-District VIII honors as a senior in volleyball when she was also selected as a 2002 Sports Illustrated "Face in the Crowd." Allen earned seven Big Sky Conference All-Academic honors, including four in volleyball and three in basketball.
After graduating from Eastern in 2003, Allen went on to play professional beach volleyball, including five seasons on the former AVP Beach Volleyball Tour. She competed in more than 50 national tournaments, placing as high as ninth two times. She also competed internationally at FIVB challenger/satellite events in Hong Kong and Poland, placing seventh and second, which marked her best finish as a pro.
In her rookie season in 2006, Allen and partner Jennifer Snyder, ranked 42nd on the tour and then improved to 40th the next year. Allen was nominated for the Rookie of the Year Award in 2006.
On Aug. 17, 2006, Ruen was chosen to ring the opening bell at the New York Mercantile Exchange in New York City and in 2008, she appeared in the motion picture “Impact Point” distributed by Sony Pictures.
In 2008, Allen joined Benson’s staff at Auburn as director of volleyball operations. She spent one season with the Tigers before returning to California, where she lives with her husband, Billy Allen - also a professional beach volleyball player.
Allen has been a head coach for the Sports Shack Volleyball Club for the last four years, and has served as Programs Coordinator for the United States Youth Volleyball League. She manages more than 30 youth volleyball programs throughout the U.S., helping recruit, train and supervise all coaches and staff.
She also coaches volleyball at Wildwood School in Los Angeles, Calif., and basketball at Vistamar School.