In 2016, for the first time in eight years, UCF Volleyball will be without Michelle Chatman as assistant head coach. But in those eight years, she has been as indispensable to the Knights as any coach of any team in the nation.
So said head coach Todd Dagenais following the Knights' final home match of 2015:
Dagenais would know. Chatman joined him in his first season back in 2007, and has been his top assistant since.
Listen to an interview with Michelle Chatman by clicking below:
Her departure from the Knights may be bittersweet, but even if Michelle Chatman never coaches another minute of college volleyball again, the legacy she leaves behind will be indelible in UCF Volleyball history.
A standout player at Florida for four seasons under Mary Wise, Chatman was an Honorable Mention All-American, leading a team that lost only ten times in those four seasons. Chatman's Gator teams took two matches over UCF in the NCAA Tournament in her four years, and got to the National Final in 2003, but lost to USC.
After a stop at Georgetown as an assistant, Chatman latched on with Dagenais when he took over the program from another Florida grad, Meg Colado, in 2008. From there, Dagenais, with Chatman's considerable help in recruiting and developing players, rebuilt the UCF Volleyball program from the ground up.
The rebuild, though difficult, worked. UCF went from winless in Conference USA the year before they arrived to the AAC Championship in 2014 - the program's first conference crown in 11 years.
That achievement was at least partially the result of Chatman's recruiting and coaching acumen, particularly with frontcourt players. Her fingerprints are all over the development of players such as DeLaina Sarden, Angelica Crump, Loren Cory, Abbie Fleener, Kia Bright and Jale Hervey, among many others.
Listen to Dana Faught (:00), Abbie Fleener (:30) and Shelby Foyer (1:00) discuss Michelle Chatman's contributions to their careers below:
In the process, Chatman has served as UCF's acting head coach twice - once in 2012, when Dagenais was dealing with a heart problem, and this past year, when he tended to an illness in his family. The Knights went 9-6 over those two stints under Chatman's interim leadership.
But after eight years in Orlando, Chatman has decided to take her life in a different direction. She met Air Force Academy graduate and former basketball player Rod Smith (with the help of fellow former UCF assistant coach Nicki Holmes), and the two were married Wednesday night:
Ladies and Gentlemen.... I proudly present Michelle and Rod Smith !!!! pic.twitter.com/MmOxBYr2Xp— Todd Dagenais (@ucfvbtodd) December 30, 2015
Chatman, now Michelle Smith, will move to San Diego with her new husband in 2016, but volleyball won't be very far away. She hopes to coach in the Southern California club volleyball scene.
As far as her extended volleyball coaching future, as she said in the above interview, it's hard to say. But the bonds she formed with UCF will last a lifetime. UCF honored her on Senior Night as part of the post-game ceremony, when it was officially announced she would move on from the program.
But whether or not college volleyball comes knocking at her door again, wherever Michelle Smith lands, success on and off the floor will follow quickly thereafter.
You can follow Michelle Smith on Twitter at @CoachMDChatman.