Leah Johnson was introduced as the seventh head coach in the history of the Illinois State volleyball team at a press conference June 21, in the Hancock Stadium Club.
Johnson comes to Illinois State from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where she spent the past six seasons as head coach. She was most recently named the 2016 Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year, while leading SIUE to the OVC Tournament’s championship match for the second time in program history.
Johnson has previously served as an assistant coach at Notre Dame (2010), Missouri State (2008-09), and Texas-Pan American (2007). Johnson played collegiately at Missouri State (2000-03) and was part of a conference championship squad in 2003.
“It is an honor to call myself a Redbird,” Johnson said. “It is undoubtedly the rich traditions and history of success that attracted me to Illinois State initially. With each conversation and meeting, it became apparent that the vision and plan for the future is just as rich and exciting. I would like to thank Director of Athletics Larry Lyons and Deputy Director of Athletics Leanna Bordner, as well as the entire leadership team, for this exciting opportunity.”
In six years at SIUE, Johnson guided the team through its transition from Division II to Division I, most recently leading the Cougars a top 100 final RPI in 2016. Johnson directed the Cougars to 22 victories last fall, the most by an SIUE team in its Division I tenure. Three of her players were named to the all-conference team, while two earned all-tournament team accolades.
Prior to her time at SIUE, Johnson spent the 2010 season as a volunteer assistant coach at Notre Dame, where she executed practice plans, provided scouting reports, and led film sessions, while working closely with defensive players and primary passers.
Johnson spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Missouri State, and helped the team to an MVC Tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth in 2008. Johnson played key roles in recruiting, player development, marketing, and alumni relations, while managing a budget and logistics for team travel and equipment.
Johnson got her start in collegiate coaching at UT-Pan American in 2007. Johnson’s responsibilities with the team included recruiting, scouting, and training. She served as the team’s interim head coach at the Great West Conference Tournament.
As a student-athlete at Missouri State, Johnson served as a team captain and helped guide the Bears to four-straight seasons with 20 or more wins. She ranks among Missouri State’s all-time and single-season digs leaders, was named to the MVC Scholar-Athlete Team, and served as a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representative.
Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree at Missouri State in 2004. She earned a master’s degree from Missouri State in 2006 after serving a graduate assistantship in the athletics department’s development office.
She is married to A.J. Weissler and the couple has two children, Edith and PJ.
Johnson inherits a team that posted an overall record of 17-15 in 2016. The Redbirds’ 2017 schedule was announced earlier this month, and includes a home tournament Sept. 8-9, and a full Missouri Valley Conference slate before Illinois State hosts the league tournament, Nov. 23-25 at Redbird Arena.
Johnson replaces Melissa Myers, who resigned on June 5 after nine seasons at the helm.
“The MVC is a great volleyball league which competes for multiple postseason bids every year,” Johnson said. “The coaches in the league are exceptional and the athletes first class. Melissa Myers and the previous coaches positioned ISU volleyball at the top of the league year in and year out. I am charged with the same—by the institution and the conference—to see that Redbird volleyball and MVC volleyball continue to thrive.
“I look forward to this great opportunity and am privileged to be a part of Redbird Athletics.”