BILLINGS — Karen Switzer, a former standout volleyball player at Billings Senior and later an assistant coach with the program, knew the head coaching job was available at her alma mater. But she hadn’t given much thought to pursuing it, really, until she got a phone call a couple months ago.
On the other end was her former coach, Jeff Carroll.
“He encouraged me to consider it,” said Switzer, who was an all-state outside hitter and helped the Broncs win the Class AA state championship in 2002 when her last name was still Anderberg. “I don’t think I would have without his encouragement, I guess.
“It’s such a monster of a program and it has such a name that it’s scary and exciting. For him to think that I have a shot at continuing the program legacy is really honoring.”
Switzer ultimately decided to go for the job, and was named the Broncs coach Tuesday by Mark Wahl, the Billings Public Schools' director of activities and athletics. It’s been a long search to find a replacement for Sue Dvorak, who stepped down after two seasons at Senior, compiling a 57-11 record and a second-place finish at state in her first season.
Dvorak replaced Carroll, who retired following the 2016 season with more than 700 wins and 12 state championships.
After graduating from Senior, Switzer attended MSU Billings, where she obtained a degree in public relations in 2006. In the interim, she assisted Carroll at Senior from 2005-08 and again in 2012-13.
Though Switzer is deeply rooted in the Broncs’ program, she’s also aware of the time she’s spent away from the team and the sport.
“I have already sought some counsel on how to catch myself up,” she said. “I went to a couple games here and there, and I’ve always been a supporter of Senior High volleyball, but I wasn’t as involved definitely as I was. So I’m becoming a student of the game again, and a student of the girls, because it’s all new girls. I know I have a lot to learn.
“But I do have some unique qualifications that I can bring to continue with a successful program.”
When Switzer and the Broncs won their title in 2002, it was the first for the school since 1997. The program was on its way to winning eight championships in the next 12 seasons, and Switzer was on the bench as an assistant for six of those titles.
While she takes no credit for it, she said it was an amazing run to be a part of. So if as a player she didn’t quite get the experience of how dominant Senior would become, she certainly learned it as an assistant coach.
“I’m sure this will be like nothing I’ve ever done,” she said. “It’s scary and exciting and I am really looking forward to it.”