A Buckeye returned home to Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday with the hope of leading her former team to success.
Former Ohio State women’s volleyball player Jen Flynn Oldenburg is set to take the helm for the Buckeyes, the Ohio State Department of Athletics announced at a press conference Tuesday. Oldenburg will become the sixth head coach in program history.
“Jen is very representative of our past, our current and where we hope to be in the future,” deputy director of athletics Janine Oman said. “For us, Jen’s passion for Ohio State and for our student-athletes that are here –– and really developing them as young women, but providing them the same opportunities that she had –– were really what made her the best fit for Ohio State.”
Oldenburg took over for Geoff Carlston Tuesday.
Carlston served as head coach for the past 12 seasons before the Department of Athletics announced he would not return Dec. 3, 2019. She will be the first female head coach of the women’s volleyball team in nearly four decades, succeeding Lisa Richards, who led the Buckeyes to a 37-21 record in 1981.
“To have the opportunity to come back and be the leader is a dream,” Oldenburg said. “To be here as an alum and start this journey with this group of athletes that are hungry and ready for more — I think with the passion that [the players] have, it’s going to be a great team, and I am excited for what this future is going to be.”
Oldenburg brings plenty of experience to the Buckeyes. She spent four years as a setter and outside hitter for Ohio State from 1996 to ’99. She was the first women’s volleyball player ever to be named All-Big Ten at two different positions.
Oldenburg’s 3,213 career assists and 1,138 career digs are good for No. 7 and No. 12 in Ohio State history, respectively. Her 1,587 assists in the ’97 season are the fourth-most in a single Buckeye season.
After her time at Ohio State, Oldenburg played for the United States National Team and helped guide it to a silver medal in 2002 as the starting setter. She also played for the U.S. Professional Volleyball “Dream Team,” on which she played for the Millennium Cup Champion USPV All-Stars.
Her coaching resume is nearly as accomplished as her athletic accolades. Oldenburg followed her playing career to the University of Illinois, where she was an assistant coach from 2003 to 2012. The Illini earned four-straight NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances from 2008 to 2011, including a second-place finish in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
More recently, Oldenburg was an assistant coach for the U-18 U.S. Youth National Team that won a world championship in Cairo, Egypt. She also has spent the past six years as the club director at Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball Association.
Oldenburg said she’ll get acquainted with her team as soon as she can.
“I feel like there is a lot I need to learn, and there is a lot of things that [players] need to learn about me,” Oldenburg said. “The volleyball will come. It’s going to be about getting to know [them] and understanding what that path is going to be this spring.”
Oldenburg said the Covelli Center will be beneficial for recruiting since it is a newer facility that acts as a permanent home with team-specific amenities. Having played in St. John Arena with limited tools and no air conditioning in her tenure as a player, Oldenburg aims to capitalize on all that the Buckeyes’ home court has to offer.
“To go where we want to go, we need to compete with the best,” Oldenburg said. “The athletes and families that are looking to see what kind of support you have in a program, they are going to see that here. We are going to build a lot of tradition in this facility.”
Although she has not met with the team all at once yet, she said she believes it is ready to take the next step as a program.
“I think with the work ethic that I have and what my staff would be, I am expecting big things,” Oldenburg said. “There are storied programs in the university, and I think it is time that volleyball is one of them as well.”