Former Loyola men’s volleyball coach Shane Davis left the program to become women’s volleyball head coach at Northwestern University before the 2016 men’s volleyball season. Now in his third year at Northwestern, Davis is preparing to return to Gentile Arena Sept. 15 — as an opponent.
Davis played at Loyola from 2000-03 and is the program’s all-time digs leader. He was named the head coach in August 2003 — three months after graduation — and led the Ramblers to back-to-back national championships in 2014 and 2015. In 12 seasons as Loyola head coach, Davis amassed a 265-88 record.
He’s never been on the visiting team’s bench, but that’ll change when the Wildcats make the short trip to Rogers Park Sept. 15 to compete in the first-ever Chicago Cup — a tournament between Loyola, Northwestern, DePaul University and University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
“Thinking about it now, I think it’s uncharted territory,” Davis said. “I’ve never been an opponent walking into Loyola’s arena or anything, so I can’t predict how it’s going to feel. But it’s going to be great just being there and seeing all familiar faces.”
Davis was named Northwestern’s head coach Dec. 28, 2015 — six days before Loyola’s 2016 season opener — and has totaled a 31-42 record since taking over. He said because the turnaround was so quick, he didn’t get a chance to “get closure” on his time at Loyola.
His first attempt at moving on was to go watch a Loyola match at Gentile Arena shortly after he was hired at Northwestern, which he said wasn’t easy.
“It was really tough for my wife and I to watch the team that we had grown to build and to love and be a part of in a community for so many years,” Davis said. “I spent almost half my life there … my wife was in tears during the match and a lot of the players came up afterward and gave her a hug … so that was the tough part, getting past that first piece.”
After some time in the shadows — going to the occasional Loyola basketball or volleyball game — Davis was inducted into the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame Feb. 24. The ceremony took place at halftime of the men’s basketball game against Illinois State University and he stayed to watch the men’s volleyball team defeat The Ohio State University 3-2 that night.
He said it was the perfect way to close the book on his career as a Rambler.
“I don’t know what it was about the Hall of Fame night where it was just kind of the end chapter and it kind of put the exclamation point on my career there,” Davis said. “After that point, it was so much more of a … relief. ‘Yep, I’m done. I’m on to the new thing,’ and it’s been great for me to stay involved as an alum and being around as an alum.”
Davis has still been close to the men’s volleyball team, even having members of the team over to his house for dinner in January. He said the decision to leave Loyola was solely his and he tried to maintain a relationship with the team.
Davis said his return to Gentile has been in the works for the last few seasons, but scheduling conflicts with Loyola, DePaul and UIC prevented the Chicago Cup from happening. Since all four teams’ schedules worked out this year, the first edition of the tournament was set.
Now, he said he’s excited for the chance to go back to where his coaching career began — the same place he won his first national championship in 2014.
“There’s so many great people [at Loyola],” Davis said. “I think it’ll feel kind of [like] a friendly environment, even though we are the opponent, so [I’m] looking forward to the opportunity to play there … I think it’ll be a really cool atmosphere and Loyola will do a good job hosting, as well.”
During his time as Loyola’s head coach, Davis said he wasn’t able to just be an alumnus. He thought becoming the head men’s volleyball coach right after graduation made him more than a Loyola graduate.
Now, he said he’s able to enjoy being an alumnus — nothing more.
“I’m really enjoying the peace of just being an alum [of] the men’s volleyball program, Loyola athletic[s] department and just Loyola in general,” Davis said. “That’s been a new role for me, and it’s been fun because I’ve never been able to be an alum at Loyola because I was always kind of the head coach right after college. It’s kind of the new chapter for me, which is a fun one as well.”
Davis and the Wildcats are scheduled to take on the Ramblers Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. at Gentile Arena.