The term legendary is a label one must earn, but the highly respected coach and player has done just that. Head volleyball coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff enters her 14th season at the helm of UTSA's volleyball program.
A member of the 17th induction class of the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in February 2011, she has tutored 48 all-conference players (20 first-teamers) and 32 all-academic honorees, including Southland Student-Athletes of the Year Meagan Daniel (2005) and Kelsey Jewasko (2011). She also has tutored the Roadrunners' only three All-American's in program history — McKenzie Adams, Dajana Boskovic and Jessica Waldrip. Under her guidance, UTSA has advanced to 12 consecutive conference tournaments and the program has been honored with the AVCA’s Team Academic Award four times since 2008.
Neugebauer-Groff is the program’s winningest head coach with 233 victories and has amassed a head coaching record of 489-241 (.670) in 21 seasons. She most recently was recognized as the Conference USA Coach of the Year in 2014, along with mentoring the league's Setter of the Year, Jessica Waldrip.
She collected her fifth consecutive 20-plus win season as she guided the Roadrunners to its second straight C-USA regular season crown. The team reached new strides as the Roadrunners picked up the program's first-ever win over Texas A&M in College Station. The Roadrunners also accomplished a win over Baylor at the UTSA Classic, a feat that had not been done since the 1990 season. At season's end, her offense ranked in the top-50 in the NCAA as the Roadrunners ranked 30thin kills per set (13.95) and 47thin assists per set (12.90).
Her most successful year at the helm was during the 2013 season. The Roadrunners finished 24-8 with a 13-1 mark in conference play. Competing in its inaugural C-USA season, UTSA captured both the league's regular season and tournament championship. The Roadrunners advanced to their second NCAA Tournament under Groff, and third overall, where they lost to in-state neighbor Texas A&M in the first round in Austin.
In 2012, the Roadrunners posted a 21-9 record overall and finished 13-5 in their one and only season in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which was good for a second-place tie in the league standings. The Birds reached the WAC Tournament semifinals and UTSA garnered numerous individual accolades during the campaign.
Adams picked up the program’s first All-America honor and was named AVCA All-West Region and the WAC Player of the Year. Freshman Annie Kunes also was named the league’s first-ever Libero of the Year. UTSA ranked third in the nation with 18.94 digs per set and the Roadrunners also led the circuit with 14.35 kills and 13.26 assists per frame.
One year prior, Neugebauer-Groff led the Roadrunners to their second consecutive Southland Conference Tournament championship match and 22 victories. During the campaign, UTSA swept a program-record 12 consecutive opponents. The Roadrunners also boasted a league-high four first-team All-Southland selections, including Schwirtlich, who was named Setter of the Year, and Adams, who earned Newcomer of the Year laurels. Meanwhile, Jewasko, who earned a pair of Academic All-America honors, became the program’s all-time leader in digs (2,280).
UTSA had a banner year in 2010, as Neugebauer-Groff led the team to 22 wins, the most during her tenure. She earned her 400th career victory in the Southland Tournament opener against McNeese State before guiding her squad to the program's second tournament championship and NCAA Tournament appearance. The Birds posted a 13-3 mark in league play and won the Southland's West Division title.
Jewasko earned her second Southland Libero of the Year award in the last three seasons and Kendra Rowland and Schwirtlich joined her by collecting first-team All-Southland honors. Meanwhile, Briana Mason and Whitney Walls each garnered honorable mention accolades. A trio of players received more awards after UTSA defeated regular season champion Central Arkansas in five sets in the tournament championship match. Rowland was named the event's Most Valuable Player, while Walls and Schwirtlich made the All-Tournament Team. Neugebauer-Groff took her team to Gregory Gymnasium in Austin, where she faced her alma mater, Texas, but the Roadrunners fell to the sixth-ranked Longhorns in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Playing arguably the most difficult schedule in school annals, she led the Roadrunners to a dozen wins in 2009. Neugebauer-Groff became the winningiest coach in program history on Sept. 8 when she notched victory number 115 against Cal State Bakersfield. Three players — Walls (second team), Jewasko (honorable mention) and Rowland (honorable mention) — earned All-Southland Conference honors.
UTSA posted 19 wins in 2008. Rowland and Jewasko both earned first-team All-Southland accolades and Jewasko was named the league's Libero of the Year, the first honoree in school history. Stefanie Robbins was tabbed the conference's Newcomer of the Year and she joined Amber Brooks as an All-Southland honorable mention selection.
Neugebauer-Groff posted her 300th career victory in the 2005 season opener against Delaware and led the Roadrunners to an 18-11 record, a 10-1 mark at the Convocation Center and a berth in the Southland Tournament championship match.
In 2003, she led UTSA to a remarkable turnaround, winning more than twice as many matches than the previous season en route to a 19-14 record and a 13-7 mark in league play. The young squad, which included eight freshmen, finished tied for fourth in the league standings and advanced to the semifinals of the postseason tournament.
A former All-American at the University of Texas, Neugebauer-Groff captained the Longhorns to four Southwest Conference Championships from 1982-85. In 1992, she was named to the league’s All-Decade team, and in 2002, the San Antonio Express-News named her one of its most-influential people in women’s sports.
Neugebauer-Groff was a member of the National Sports Festival squad in 1983 and also participated at the 1995 World University Games in Japan. From 1986-87, she played professionally for the West German Volleyball League before joining the Chicago Breeze a year later. Neugebauer-Groff has been an annual participant in the United States Volleyball Association National Tournament since 1987.
Her playing days behind her, she was not done with the game and certainly was not done with winning.
After brief stints at Hondo High School (1988-90) and as an assistant coach at Texas A&M (1990-92), she accepted the head coaching position locally at St. Mary’s University. It was there that she put together a sparkling 256-62 (.805) record and three national tournament appearances during her eight-year tenure. Neugebauer-Groff finished her stay with a 35-5 mark, the 2000 Heartland Conference Championship and league Coach of the Year honors for the fifth time.
When she began her tenure at St. Mary’s, Neugebauer-Groff signed on as the Director of the Alamo Volleyball Club. She held that position from 1993-2006 and continues to be an active participant in developing volleyball in South Texas. Her local contributions have not gone unnoticed, as she was one of five recipients of the 2006 Robert L. Lindsay Meritorious Service Award (presented annually to USA Volleyball members who make outstanding contributions in the area of regional operations).
Neugebauer-Groff also was a part of Jefferson High School’s inaugural Hall of Fame and Distinguished Alumni Class in May 2007 and a member of the UIL's All-Century third team in 2009.
“I feel like I’ve come full circle,” Neugebauer-Groff said when she was hired in 2002. “As a former Texas player to be back in the University of Texas system and also in San Antonio is like a dream come true.”
She graduated from Texas in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and received her master’s degree in educational leadership from St. Mary’s in 1996.
Neugebauer-Groff and her husband, Dwayne, have two children, Jacob and Madison.
The Neugebauer-Groff File