Matt Buttermore had a hard time describing the way he coaches, but outside hitter Kendra Schwein was able to put it into words.
“He claims to be a calm coach, which I think the players would disagree with,” Schwein said. “If we made a mistake, he would tell us exactly how to fix it. He can draw the talent out of any player, any level of player.”
Buttermore became the coach of the women’s volleyball team at Hastings College in December 2011. He was the fourth coach that Schwein and the other seniors had played for during their college careers.
But Buttermore brought something different to the table.
“He drew out the best in every individual player,” said Schwein, who graduated as a first-team All-American. “If one of our players was a good blocker, he’d make them the best blocker there is. He takes people’s strength and runs with it.”
Buttermore’s accomplishments have led to him being chosen as The World-Herald’s women’s coach of the year. Schools nominated coaches, and the winner was selected by a committee of writers and editors.
The Broncos finished with a modest 18-15 record in 2011, the season before Buttermore was hired. That put them in the middle of the pack in the Great Plains Athletic Conference — a far cry from the team that went 16-0 in conference play in 2006.
Buttermore had just finished his third season as an assistant coach at Bellevue University. He thought the Hastings job was a natural fit for him and his wife and assistant coach, former Nebraska All-American Laura Pilakowski.
“This is a job I’ve always kind of had my eye on,” he said. “We like it in Hastings, and this is where we want to be.”
In preparation for the season, Buttermore tried to stress the importance of team identity and confidence on the court. The results were evident early in the season.
Key wins against No. 11 Doane College and No. 12 Oklahoma Baptist in September helped propel the team to a top-10 ranking in the NAIA. Even within an accomplished program, the players were enjoying an unfamiliar level of success.
“We had to readjust some of our goals after the rankings came out,” Buttermore said. “I don’t think they realized what they had done. They were pretty shocked, to be sure.”
The Broncos continued their run into nationals, where they advanced to the elite eight before falling to Concordia (Calif.) University, which went undefeated en route to the national championship. Hastings finished 30-7, including a 16-0 mark in the GPAC.
“You never want to lose, but at that point, you have to think about the season and really appreciate what we’ve accomplished — going undefeated in the regular season, which is no cakewalk,” he said. “I think to advance to the elite eight, where this program hasn’t been in a while, that’s a pretty neat experience.”
Schwein expects Buttermore’s success to continue in the future.
“I’ve had a lot of coaches who know a lot on the court but are jerks off the court, or guys who knew nothing about volleyball who were nice off the court,” she said. “He has it all. He coached us up to be a great team.”