MJ Engstrom, a standout coach at the collegiate and national level and the program's all-time Division I wins leader, enters her tenth season as the head coach at UAlbany and is a three-time America East Coach of the Year.
Engstrom, who was appointed interim head women's volleyball coach on March 5, 2008, was previously a head coach at Villanova and Nicholls State. She was elevated to interim coach from her role as a UAlbany assistant.
To date, Engstrom has posted an overall record of 154-106 and 89-19 in America East play over nine seasons. Her time at the helm of UAlbany includes three America East Tournament titles and as many NCAA appearances as a head coach, making the America East Tournament all nine years with eight finals appearances.
At least one Great Dane has won an America East major award in eight out of nine years Engstrom has been the UAlbany head coach. Engstrom has also coached the America East Defensive Specialist of the Year her firs eight years of her tenure at UAlbany. Engstrom has coached a total of 16 America East major award winners.
In 2016, UAlbany secured its third consecutive America East title match appearance after finishing second place in the league at 9-3, becoming UAlbany's all-time Division I wins leader on September 16th with winning the West Point Invitational. The team finished at 16-10 overall, including victories over UConn and St. John's, sweeping UMBC to reach the America East title match in New Hampshire. Three UAlbany players, Amanda Dolan, Laini Leindecker and Nicole Otero all earned spots on the America East All-Conference Team. UAlbany was a strong defensive team, leading the America East in digs per set (16.82) and blocks per set (2.47).
UAlbany returned to the top of the America East mountain in 2015, sharing the regular season championship with New Hampshire at 11-1 in the America East. Engstrom and her staff were honored as the America East Coaching Staff of the Year for their efforts. UAlbany went 17-9 overall, including sharing the in-season tournament titles at the Golden Flashes Classic and the Colgate Classic plus reaching the America East title match. Laini Leindecker earned America East Co-Player of the Year while freshman Nicole Otero was selected as the America East Defensive Player of the Year, the eighth straight season a Great Dane earned that award. In addition, Leindecker, Tatum Jungsten and Mikala McCauley all were placed on the America East All-Conference First Team while Otero, an All-Rookie Team member, and Amanda Dolan got to the Second Team. UAlbany led the America East in opponent's hitting percentage, blocks and digs per set to stand as the top defensive team in the America East.
2014 saw UAlbany return to the America East title match as the Great Danes finished tied for second place in the conference, going 7-5 in the league and 10-17 overall. UAlbany defeated Binghamton in the semifinals before falling to UNH in four in the title match. Viktoriia Stroilo earned her third-consecutive America East Defensive Player of the Year honor after finishing 10th in the NCAA in digs per set, totaling 517 on the year. Laini Leindecker earned All-Conference First Team status, while Stroilo and Amanda Dolan each earned All-Conference Second Team. Emily Lopes was placed on the All-Rookie Team, while Mikala McCauley earned the America East Elite 18 Award for having the highest GPA among participants in the league title match.
In 2013, UAlbany finished tied for second place in the America East regular season with a team of eight freshmen and just three upperclassmen, going 9-5 in conference play and 9-19 overall, falling to UMBC in the league tournament. For the sixth season in a row, a Great Dane earned AE Defensive Player of the Year, with Viktoriia Stroilo leading the league in digs per set in conference matches. Amanda Dolan earned AE Rookie of the Year, being placed on the All-Rookie Team along with setter Mikala McCauley. Samantha Brostrom was placed on the All-Conference First Team, with Dolan and Stroilo going on the Second Team.
The Great Danes won the regular season America East title for the fifth straight year in 2012, falling to Binghamton 3-0 in the conference championship. Sara Pope was named America East Player of the Year as a sophomore under Engstrom. Viktoriia Stroilo was also named America East Defensive Specialist of the Year, marking the second consecutive year Engstrom had two players win major America East awards. Tatum Jungsten was also named to the All-Rookie team in 2012.
In 2011, UAlbany won its sixth America East Conference championship title, and fourth in the last five years under Engstrom's tutelage. Laurie Gonzalez was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year for the fourth straight season, the first time any student-athlete has claimed the hardware for four consecutive years. Brooke Stanley, who missed the 2010 season with a knee injury, came back to earn Setter of the Year honors for the third time in her career, and was joined on the All-Conference First Team by Casey Wright. Freshman Samantha Brostrom was named to the All-Rookie Team. Gonzalez and Wright were later named AVCA All-Northeast Region selections, while Gonzalez was an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American.
The Great Danes won their fifth America East title in 2010. Gonzalez claimed her third straight Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Teresa Coppiellie was named the Player of the Year, giving UAlbany the league's top player for the third consecutive season. Casey Wright joined Coppiellie on the first team, while Gonzalez was a member of the all-conference second team for the third time. Coppiellie was named the tournament's most outstanding player after leading the Great Danes to a 3-0 defeat of UMBC in the title match, and was joined by Gonzalez and Wright on the all-tournament team.
In 2009, UAlbany claimed the America East Conference regular-season title after posting an undefeated league record for the second straight season. Engstrom, who was named the conference's coach of the year, mentored the America East player and setter of the year, Brooke Stanley, as well as the co-defensive specialist of the year, Gonzalez, both of whom claimed the top positional awards in consecutive seasons. Stanley was one of four players who earned all-conference first-team honors, while Gonzalez was a second-team selection. Stanley and teammate Coppiellie were named to the America East tournament's all-championship team.
In 2008, Engstrom led the Great Danes to their third consecutive America East Conference title and fourth in the last five seasons. The Great Danes played in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, taking on #2 Stanford. She mentored the league's player, setter and defensive specialist of the year, leading UAlbany to a 23-9 overall record. The Great Danes' 12-0 conference slate was the first undefeated record posted in the league since 2001.
Senior Kamisha Kellam earned all-conference first-team honors as the league's player of the year, while Laurie Gonzalez earned the defensive specialist of the year and Brooke Stanley was named the conference's setter of the year. Kellam was also named the America East Tournament's Most Outstanding Player, becoming the third straight Great Dane to earn the distinction. Stanley and Amanda Cowdrey joined Kellam on the all-tournament team, and all three were later awarded all-conference first team honors. Hillary White joined Gonzalez on the all-conference second team, while Gonzalez and Kalyn Mostert earned all-league rookie team accolades. Gonzalez was later chosen by USA Volleyball to play on the U.S. National Women's A2 Team.
Engstrom completed her third season as the top assistant in 2007. She helped guide UAlbany to its third conference championship in four seasons and produced the program's first NCAA Tournament victory. UAlbany finished 24-10 overall and reached the NCAA's second round for the first time in team history. Engstrom, who served as recruiting coordinator for the previous three seasons, was instrumental in the Great Danes' success by bringing in one of the program's top classes in 2007. Freshman Amanda Cowdrey was named the 2007 America East rookie of the year and earned all-conference second-team accolades. She was also joined on the all-rookie squad by classmates Brooke Stanley and Tawny Dahmes.
Engstrom came to UAlbany after five seasons as the head coach of Nicholls State University in Louisiana. She led the Colonials to the 2003 Southland Conference Tournament championship and the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history. Engstrom also spent two years at the helm of the Villanova volleyball program, guiding the Wildcats to their first NCAA appearance in 1997. The tournament berth was the first at-large bid for a Big East Conference program.
Along with her head coaching experience, Engstrom served as an assistant coach at the University of Washington from 1998-99 and the University of North Dakota from 1990-93. She has also worked with the USA Men's and Women's National Volleyball teams and has run her own volleyball camp in conjunction with Coastal Virginia's volleyball club since 1997.
Engstrom, a native of St. Paul, Minn., is on the editorial board for the International Journal for Volleyball Research and is a member of the USA Volleyball Sports Medicine and Performance Commission. She was a student-athlete at the University of Minnesota and received a degree in psychology.
MJ Engstrom's UAlbany Year-by-Year
|2008||12-0||23-9||America East Title, NCAA First Round|
|2009||10-0||22-9||America East Final|
|2010||10-2||22-9||America East Title, NCAA First Round|
|2011||11-1||21-9||America East Title, NCAA First Round|
|2012||10-2||14-15||America East Final|
|2013||9-5||9-19||America East Semifinal|
|2014||7-5||10-17||America East Final|
|2015||11-1||17-9||America East Final|
|Total||80-16||138-96||3 America East titles, 3 NCAA Appearances|