Pepperdine volleyball coach garners WCC Coach of the Year honors

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Pepperdine's Scott Wong earned West Coast Conference Coach of the Year honors after leading the Waves to their 12th WCC championship. Photo by Pepperdine Athletics.

Scott Wong has coached several standout players and racked up over 100 career wins

When Scott Wong was a standout high school volleyball player in Hawaii, he didn’t envision himself one day stepping into the coaching ranks. 

The All-American player still never saw himself directing players from the sideline during his four-year college career with the Pepperdine Waves men’s volleyball team. 

That changed when Wong coached a successful 16U San Fernando Valley boys volleyball team three years after graduating from Pepperdine in 2001. 

Wong caught the coaching bug. 

“People, relationships move me,” he said. “I was emotionally moved by the team, the experience, and coming together as a team. That, along with the sport I love, grabbed ahold of me, and led to me coaching.”

Now 19 years later, Wong, the head coach of the Pepperdine Waves women’s volleyball team, is the West Coast Conference’s Coach of the Year.

The Waves head coach of nine years said winning the award is an honor.

“It’s a reflection of our team doing great things,” Wong said. “You win as a team, and then start winning all these individual accolades that reflect back on the team.”

The top Wave won the postseason accolade after coaching Pepperdine to its 12th WCC Championship ever. The Waves went 15-1 in the nine-team conference, while recording a 19-8 overall record in the regular season. Pepperdine won 17 consecutive games during their campaign and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season and fifth time in the last six years.

The squad was defeated 3-2 by Dayton in the first round of the tournament on Dec. 1. 

This season, Wong stated, was meaningful because all the Waves’ hard work from this year and recent seasons paid off. He recalled how Pepperdine secured the WCC crown with a Senior Night sweep over San Diego on Nov. 11. 

“To see how much it meant to our team,” Wong noted. “The emotion behind it. It was a pretty special day when we clinched the WCC championship. What a cool testimony to our young ladies working hard, grinding, talking about that day coming, and it came. It was pretty special.” 

The Waves’ successful season led to them tallying a litany of other postseason honors. 

Junior pin hitter Grace Chillingworth was named the WCC Player of the Year. She led the conference in kills and attacks per set and was the WCC Offensive Player of the Week four times. 

Isabel Zelaya, a graduate student, was the WCC Setter of the Year. She led Pepperdine in assists in every match and had six double-doubles. 

Graduate student Riley Patterson was named the WCC Libero of the Year. Patterson had double-figure digs in 20 matches and led Pepperdine in digs in 19 matches. 

Chillingworth, Zelaya, Patterson, senior middle blocker Meg Brown, and senior outside hitter Birdie Hendrickson were all named to the All-WCC First Team. 

Sophomore attacker Emily Hellmuth was named to the All-WCC Second Team. Sophomore middle blocker Vanessa Polk was an All-WCC honorable mention, and defensive specialist Laine Briggs was named to the WCC All-Freshman Team. 

Additionally, Chillingworth was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s All-Pacific South Region first team. Patterson and Zelaya received honorable mention status. 

Pepperdine had the fifth toughest non-conference schedule in women’s college volleyball before they began WCC play, and it showed. The squad began their campaign with a 1-6 record. 

The team had a two-hour meeting in the locker room after Hawaii swept them on the second day of the Sept. 7-10 OUTRIGGER Volleyball Challenge in Honolulu. 

The group discussion was a problem-solving session, Wong said. 

“Team sports are challenging,” he said. “We talked through things. At that moment, I knew great things were going to come. At that point, we were as tight as possible.”

Pepperdine defeated Liberty 3-1 the last day of the challenge. The victory was the beginning of their 17-match winning streak. The streak ended with a 3-2 loss to Pacific on Nov. 16. 

Wong describes himself a collaborative coach. His message to the team was simply “Let’s get after it today. Let’s be our best today,” amidst the string of wins. 

Wong played several sports as a youth in Perl City, on the island of O’ahu. He decided to focus solely on volleyball in the eighth grade. Wong played at Punahou School in Honolulu before joining Pepperdine’s men’s volleyball team in 1998. 

He won MPSF and AVCA Freshman of the Year awards his first season at Pepperdine. Along with being a three-time All-American, Wong was a four-time All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation player. 

He was an outside hitter and libero on the U.S. Men’s National Team that won gold at the 2001 World University Games. Additionally, Wong played professional beach volleyball for seven years. 

However, coaching was in his heart. Wong was an assistant coach for Pepperdine men’s volleyball coaching legend Marv Dunphy from 2005 to 2009, and credits Dunphy for influencing his coaching style. 

“If you are around him, you are constantly taking notes in your mind,” Wong said. “Like Coach Dunphy, I try to surround myself with great people.” 

Wong was an associate coach for the Hawaii women’s volleyball team from 2010 to 2014, and also coached Hawaii’s women’s sand volleyball team during those years.

Since taking the Waves’ head coaching reigns, Wong has coached several standout players and racked up over 100 wins. 

Wong is just as competitive as a coach as he was as a player despite his calm demeanor on the sideline. 

“I see the game pretty well because I played at high level,” he said. “I’ve grown a ton. How I communicate, lead, and manage has changed significantly.” 

Wong is honored that other WCC coaches voted him as Coach of the Year. It is not an award he strove to receive. 

“It meant a lot for the other coaches in the conference to feel like I did a good job,” Wong said. “I’m really appreciative of our team really getting after it this year.”