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A familiar face to Midland University volleyball fans is leaving the program for a new challenge.

Nicole Venditte, who was a longtime assistant coach for Paul Giesselmann, has accepted a job on Leanne Piscotty’s staff at Shippensburg University. The Pennsylvania school competes at the NCAA Division II level.

“I’m really excited,” Venditte said. “I’ve been looking for this type of opportunity for a while now. It is pretty amazing that it is here. I will miss Coach G and working with all of the coaches and players, but I needed to do this for me personally to keep going in the direction I want to go.”

Venditte graduated from Midland in 2011, but never actually took an undergraduate class at the school.

After graduating from Millard West in 2006, Venditte enrolled at Dana where she played four years. She began her career as a setter before moving to libero and then defensive specialist.

When the Blair school closed in 2010, Venditte had completed all of her classroom work, but needed to student teach.

“Midland grandfathered me in,” Venditte said. “I graduated from here without ever taking a course.”

Giesselmann had been hired prior to the 2010 season to fix an ailing program. Venditte planned on helping the volleyball team at the school she was student teaching at, but that quickly changed.

“We had a mutual coaching friend in Nate Mongan, who is on our staff now,” Venditte said. “Paul called and said he thought I needed to help them for the semester. I was like, ‘Why not?’ and that is how it all began.”

Venditte was a student coach that first year, but Midland added its graduate assistant program the next season. Venditte was hired and served that role for two seasons. She was elevated to assistant coach in 2013.

Midland has made six-straight appearances at the NAIA Tournament in Sioux City, Iowa. The Lady Warriors have advanced out of pool play five of those six years and they’ve reached the semifinals twice, including in 2018.

“I am really happy for Nicole to have this opportunity to further challenge herself in her coaching career,” Giesselmann said. “She has been a huge part of this program’s success since I started at Midland.”

Venditte said it has been an enjoyable experience being a member of Giesselmann’s staff.

“We kind of clicked as a coaching staff,” she said. “I like to say I play devil’s advocate with him a lot, but he understands that I don’t always do it because I actually disagree with him. It is because I’m there to make sure we are making the right decisions. It has worked out pretty well.”

Coaching at the NAIA or NCAA level was not something Venditte set out to do when she enrolled at Dana.

“I had no intention of coaching at the college level,” she said. “I wanted to be at a high school and run my own program. But as I went through the (graduate assistant) process, I fell in love with college athletics. You are one of the last mentors for students before they get out into the real world. There is a good bond between a college athlete and a college coach because the coach is one of their last main influences before they take on the adult world.”

Venditte has been named the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Regional Assistant Coach of the Year (2013 and 2016). In 2016, she was named to the AVCA’s Thirty Under 30 list that honors top up-and-coming coaches.

While Midland has won numerous big matches during Venditte’s tenure in the program, there are other memories she will treasure.

“We’ve won a few banners and things, but what makes those things special is the stuff that happens before it,” she said. “You train an athlete for two or three years and keep working on a certain skill or technique and then all of a sudden in a match they do what they are supposed to do or do what you’ve been trying to teach them and they didn’t have to think about it. They look over at you on the bench and they smile. They’ve finally figured it out or caught on. When those little things happen, they make those bigger moments that much more special.”

Giesselmann has no doubts that Venditte will excel at her new challenge.

“I know that she’s had a really positive impact on all of our volleyball players over the years and I know she will have the same impact at Shippensburg,” he said.

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