Jennifer Calloway stepped
onto the USC Upstate campus 17 years ago and immediately left her
mark, setting the team on its way to the highest winning percentage
in school history. Two years later, just months after receiving her
Bachelor’s degree, Calloway began her career as a head coach
at USC Upstate, making her the youngest coach in the NCAA at the
Sixteen years and 283 wins later, Calloway is still on the sidelines for USC Upstate.
The success of the two-time Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year has been constant, leading Upstate to eight 20-win seasons, coaching two conference players of the year, three freshmen of the year, two CoSIDA Academic All-District selections and 19 all-conference performers.
“Coach Calloway knows the game; she’s been around it most of her life,” former Spartan Becky Greiling said. “She’s smart, intuitive and she’s a competitor at heart. She’s always there for her players, both on and off the court. She has all the elements of a great coach. She IS a great coach. Jen makes it fun to be a volleyball player. She’s honest and approachable, and she truly cares about you. She’s one of those people that makes you a better person and she’s also a person that years later, you can call a friend. “
A part of the USC Upstate community for more than a quarter of its 42 years, Calloway stabilized a volleyball program that had seven coaches in a nine-year period when she took over at age 23 in 1996. Since, she has led USC Upstate to a 265-195 (.576) record and two appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Spartans took nine trips to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament semifinals in 11 seasons at the Division II level with Calloway on the bench. In 2004, Calloway was at the helm of the volleyball program when the University changed its name from USC Spartanburg to USC Upstate and its athletic programs’ nickname from Rifles to Spartans. In 2007, she led Upstate athletics into the Division I era, coaching the Spartans in the first athletic event at the D-I level, a 3-0 sweep of Savannah State on Aug. 24.
The 2009 Spartans posted some remarkable feats, including beating crosstown rival Wofford, 3-1, for the school’s first win over the rival at the D-I level. At the end of the year, both Emily Sanders and Mindy Quimby earned A-Sun All-Freshman Team honors, the first postseason honors for Upstate by the conference. As consistent in the classroom as ever, the Spartans had eight players earn All-Academic Team honors and the squad qualified for the AVCA Team Academic Award for the second time in three years.
In 2008, Calloway guided the Spartans to an 11-23 overall record. The team recorded many memorable wins, including a 3-2 win over rival Presbyterian for Calloway’s 250th career win and the program’s 300th win at the Hodge Center in a 3-0 sweep of North Carolina Central. The Spartans also closed the year with a third-place finish at the Mr. Gatti’s Proviisional Invitational, beating North Florida for the first time since 1994 in their final match of the season. Two of Calloway’s players also earned Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week honors during the season. As usual, the team had several academic highlights, with eight student-athletes earning A-Sun All-Academic Team honors.
The 2007 Spartans finished 11-17 overall, the first losing campaign in the Calloway era. However, the young group did produce several memorable moments in their first Division I campaign, including sweeping their final Atlantic Sun Conference weekend with wins over Mercer and Kennesaw State to finish ninth in the 12-team league. In the classroom, the Spartans rewrote the athletic department’s record book, scoring a 3.62 GPA as a team in the fall and recording four perfect 4.0 GPAs during the semester. Calloway’s crew featured 12 All-Academic Atlantic Sun Conference selections, more than any other team in the league, helping it earn the program’s first AVCA Team Academic Award for maintaining a 3.30 GPA during the school year.
Calloway led the 2006 Spartans to a 23-11 record in its final season in Division II and the Peach Belt Conference. It marked the eighth time in 11 seasons that Calloway has led Upstate to 20 wins or more. During the season, Mandy Rupert wrapped up her four-year career by earning All-Peach Belt Conference honors, breaking school records for kills and service aces during the season.
Calloway guided the 2005 squad to a 21-win season as two players earned All-Conference honors and Shannon Pallardy earned the school’s Female Student-Athlete of the Year award. She led the 2004 Spartans to a solid season as two players were named all-conference and another earned PBC Tournament All-Tournament team honors as Upstate reached the tournament semifinals for the third straight year.
In 2003, she led USC Spartanburg to a 24-7 record overall and an 11-3 mark in the Peach Belt Conference, earning Peach Belt Coach of the Year honors for the second time in three seasons. She also coached two all-conference selections and the league Freshman of the Year in Rupert.
In 2002, Calloway continued her string of 20-win seasons and coached two All-Conference selections. The 2001 Lady Rifles finished the season with a 25-8 record, the most wins for a USC Spartanburg squad since 1994, and a berth in the national tournament. USC Spartanburg claimed a second-place finish in the Peach Belt as Calloway earned conference Coach of the Year award. Senior Kim Pitman was recognized as the league Player of the Year and a school-record four Rifles earned All-Conference honors.
The 2000 team earned the program’s first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament and Pitman and Kristin Korte were named all-conference. USC Spartanburg finished the year with a 24-11 record.
After serving as an assistant coach for Dr. Joe Bowman for one season in 1995, she assumed the reigns of the program in 1996 and immediately led the Lady Rifles to back-to-back 20-win seasons. She also coached Michelle Graham, who went on to win the NCAA South Carolina Woman of the Year award during the season.
Calloway (then Jennifer Rakers) was a standout on the USC Upstate volleyball team in 1994, leading the Spartans to a 38-4 record and their second consecutive Peach Belt Conference championship as the team’s setter. She led USC Upstate with 10.7 assists per game and 73 aces, and was third on the team in digs with 1.5 per game. She was named to the All-Tournament teams at Jacksonville State and North Florida. USC Upstate became the first Peach Belt volleyball team to crack the Top 25 rankings, reaching No. 24 late in the 1994 campaign.
Calloway began her career at Belleville Area College, now Southwestern Illinois College, in her home state of Illinois. She played two seasons at the school and was named the Great Rivers Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player and All-Region in 1992. She holds the single-season school record for assists (1,509), which is the fifth-highest total ever recorded at a junior college. She also led the team in aces (98) and digs (370). She was recognized by Who’s Who Among Students in Junior Colleges in 1992-93. She moved on to Avila University in Missouri for the 1993-94 school year and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player.
From a young age, Calloway was influenced by the game of volleyball, with both parents, her sister and her brother also coaching the sport at some level. Her father, Fred Rakers, is one of the most legendary coaches in Illinois High School history, winning five Class A state titles at Mater Dei. In 32 seasons, Rakers has posted a 936-185 career mark. Her mother, Rosie, co-coached an eighth-grade team at Aviston (Ill.) to a state title with Calloway. Her brother, Chad, is currently the coach of the C-4 Club team and is the junior varsity coach at Mater Dei. Previously, he coached Germantown Elementary (Ill.) Junior High to four state championships. Her sister, Erin, was a part of three state championship teams as a player for her father, Fred, at Mater Dei in 1992, 1993 and 1994 and went on to coach at Union (Ill.) High School.
Calloway, a native of Aviston, Ill., earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from USC Upstate in 1995. She and her husband, Brad, are the proud parents of two sons, Joel and Nathan, and one daughter, Jenna.
What They Are Saying About Coach Calloway
Jen Calloway knows the
discipline, commitment and talent it takes to be successful in
collegiate volleyball. While I played for Jen, she was more
of the “quiet caretaker.” I never doubted she cared for
us with everything in her; she just did so quietly. She gave us the
tools we needed to be successful and expected greatness from us all
of the time. Since I left her program in 2005, Jen and I have
become good friends. It has been quite a rewarding experience to be
her colleague and experience what a great mentor and friend she can
be. I have no doubts she is going to succeed in Division I in
the same manner she has done in her previous years, and I am lucky
to have such an experienced member of the game in my
- Amber Glass Cornet
Former Head Coach, Augusta State (2005-08); Former Upstate player (2002-04)
I have nothing but the utmost respect for Coach Calloway’s program, coaching ethics and knowhow, and team structure. As one of her first recruited players, she taught me more about the game of volleyball than any previous coach, including how to be a team leader, push through diversity and truly excel on and off the court. As USC Upstate transitions into the world of D-I volleyball, I have no doubt that Coach Calloway will once again succeed at what she does best. Her ability to recruit solid all-around athletes, train and keep a team focused as well as motivate a winning spirit will help USC Upstate grow to become a well-respected team in their conference.
- Nicolee Thompson,
Former Head Coach, Newberry College (2002-04); Former Upstate player (1996-99)
As an athlete at USC Upstate, I knew Coach Calloway was connected to my success on and off the volleyball court. She influenced me to work hard in all aspects of life. She taught me there is more to being a successful individual than dominance on the volleyball court and showed support and care for all aspects of my life including school, family, friends and faith.
- Shannon Pallardy
Former Assistant, South Carolina (2006-08); Former Upstate player (2002-05)
Coach Calloway has always expected a lot from her teams and it has really paid off. During the four years I played for her, we became a well-respected program and made it to the NCAA Tournament twice. She’s done a great job of recruiting well-rounded girls and has always been a D-I-level coach. Now she has the opportunity to be a part of it.
- Kristin Zurlienne,
USC Upstate Hall of Fame member; Former Upstate player (1998-2001)
Coach Calloway knows the game; she’s been around it most of her life. She’s smart, intuitive and she’s a competitor at heart. While she’s always pushing you, she never degrades you. And she’s always there for her players, both on and off the court. She has all the elements of a great coach. She IS a great coach. Jen makes it fun to be a volleyball player, even when you can’t catch your breath after doing numerous suicides. She’s honest and approachable, and she truly cares about you. She’s one of those people that makes you a better person and she’s also a person that years later, you can call a friend.
The direction the University is headed as a D1 school is exciting – it holds a lot of possibilities; both for the University in general and in sports. With Jen as the head volleyball coach, you have someone that knows how to inspire a team, drive a team beyond their limits and take them to that next level. She adapts well to change and can see the big picture.
- Becky Greiling Brown,
Former Upstate player (1999-2000)
- The Calloway File -
Husband - Brad; Sons - Joel (16), Nathan (8); Daughter - Jenna (7)
|1993||Associate of Arts||Liberal Arts, Southwestern Illinois College|
|1995||Bachelor of Science||Interdisciplinary Studies - USC Upstate|
|1995||USC Upstate - Student Assistant|
|1996 - Present||USC Upstate - Head Coach|
|2001||Division II - Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year|
|2003||Division II - Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year|
|1996||21-14||6-4||Youngest Coach in Division II|
|1997||20-13||6-6||2nd straight 20-win season|
|1998||19-15||9-5||Korte named to PBC Freshman of the Year|
|1999||19-15||7-7||3rd straight trip to PBC semifinals|
|2000*||24-11||9-5||1st bid to NCAA D-II Tournament|
|2001*||25-8||11-3||4 Players named All-Peach Belt|
|2002||22-10||9-5||3rd Straight 20-win season|
|2003||25-8||11-3||2nd Peach Belt Coach of the Year Award|
|2004||16-15||7-7||2 players named All-Peach Belt|
|2005||21-13||8-4||200th Career Victory|
|2006||23-11||6-6||8th 20-win season|
|2007||11-17||3-8||First year in Division I|
|2008||11-23||4-16||3rd Place finish at Provisional Invitational|
|2009||8-22||4-16||2 A-Sun All-Freshman Team Honorees|
|| Program's first
A-Sun All-Conference pick
|TOTAL||283-234||103-115||*Team advanced to NCAA Tournament|