Joe Sagula


Joe Sagula, one of the most successful coaches in college volleyball, completed his 27th season at Carolina in 2016. UNC’s winningest volleyball coach in history, Sagula has won seven ACC championships and led UNC to 14 of its 18 NCAA Tournament appearances.

The Tar Heels are 577-309 under Sagula, a .651 winning percentage. Sagula is 780-432 (.644) over a total of 36 years as a Division I head coach, with 11 regular-season and six conference tournament titles.

Sagula has the most ACC wins of any coach in history with 309, and his seven ACC titles ties for the most all time among the league’s coaches.

Sagula has directed the Tar Heels to 14 top-three finishes in the league’s regular-season standings, including first-place finishes in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2014 and 2016. In the 14 seasons in which the ACC held a postseason tournament, Sagula led the Tar Heels to six appearances in the ACC championship match and reached the semifinals 10 times.

Sagula has coached five ACC Players of the Year - Amy Peistrup (1992), Erin Berg (1998), Laura Greene (2002), Dani Nyenhuis (2005) and Taylor Leath (2016) - two ACC Defensive Players of the Year - Kaylie Gibson (2010) and Ece Taner (2014) - and three ACC Freshmen of the Year in Cameron Van Noy (2011), Paige Neuenfeldt (2012) and Julia Scoles (2016).

The 2016 Tar Heels achieved new heights under Sagula's leadership, receiving their highest AVCA (6) and RPI (5) rankings in program history, winning their 13th ACC title and advancing to NCAA Regionals for the third time, while taking down a program-record three top-10 teams during the season. Carolina went an unprecedented 19-1 in ACC play and captured three individual conference honors. Taylor Leath became UNC's fourth AVCA All-American after winning ACC Player of the Year, while Julia Scoles won ACC and AVCA East Region Freshman of the Year, and Sagula took home ACC and AVCA Regional Coach of the Year honors.

In 2015, Sagula guided UNC to its biggest regular-season victory in program history, a 3-0 sweep of No. 3 Stanford, to mark the second straight season with a win over a top-three opponent. UNC put together a 12-match winning streak to finish tied for second in the ACC and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Paige Neuenfeldt earned Third-Team All-America honors, becoming the third AVCA All-American in program history, while becoming the first-ever Tar Heel to  garner Academic All-America honors.

Sagula led the 2014 Tar Heels to a 29-3 record, including a perfect 16-0 home record, en route to his fourth career ACC Coach of the Year award.  UNC achieved a series of program bests during the season, including a No. 7 AVCA Coaches Poll ranking, a No. 5 NCAA RPI ranking and a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UNC ran off a record 20-straight victories, the longest streak in program history. The season ended for the Tar Heels in the NCAA Regional Finals in Minneapolis, the first time Carolina volleyball had ever reached the Elite Eight. Chaniel Nelson became the second AVCA All-American with a Second Team honor in 2014, and joined Victoria McPherson, Ece Taner and Paige Neuenfeldt on the AVCA All-Region team.

In 2013, the Tar Heels opened the season with a 15-game win streak, the best start in program history. Carolina finished 27-5, recording the most wins in a season since 2002, and grabbed a No. 25 final AVCA ranking for the first time since that same season. UNC was ranked in the top 25 in each of the season’s weekly AVCA Coaches Polls and peaked at No. 10 for the program’s highest-ever ranking to that point. Jovana Bjelica and Neuenfeldt earned AVCA All-America Honorable Mentions and AVCA All-Region awards.

In 2012, Sagula led the Tar Heels to an undefeated home record (15-0) and the school’s 14th NCAA appearance. UNC finished 26-6 and earned two AVCA All-America Honorable Mentions (Emily McGee and Neuenfeldt), with Neuenfeldt earning ACC and AVCA East Region Freshman of the Year honors.

Sagula captured his 600th overall win and 400th win at Carolina in 2010.The Bronx, N.Y., native became the first coach in ACC history to earn 200 league wins on Oct. 6, 2010, at Wake Forest.

In 2002, the Tar Heels won 30 matches (32-4 overall) for the first time since 1985 en route to the program’s first appearance in an NCAA Regional Semifinal. They also won the ACC regular-season championship with a 15-1 conference record. 

From 1998-2002, Sagula led UNC to a 139-35 (.799) record with two regular-season and three ACC Tournament titles, as well as five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances culminating in UNC's the first-ever NCAA Regionals in 2002. Sagula was named AVCA East Region Coach of the Year in three of those five years as well as the 1998 and 2002 ACC Coach of the Year.

Prior to his arrival in Chapel Hill, Sagula spent nine seasons (1981-89) as the head coach of the University of Pennsylvania, where he compiled a 203-123 record with four Ivy League regular-season titles and three tournament championships. Named Ivy League Coach of the Year four years in a row, Sagula coached two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Melissa Ingalls to four consecutive All-Ivy honors.

In addition to his duties with the women’s team at Penn, Sagula served as the head men’s coach from 1981-89. His record with the men, which competed at both the varsity and club levels, was 111-75 (.597).

Sagula was elected president of the AVCA from January 2004 to December 2006 and served on the AVCA Board of Directors for a total of 10 years in various positions as president, president elect, past president, and chair of the Division I All-America Committee. While at Penn, Sagula chaired the NCAA Division I All-America Committee for four years and served 10 years as the Awards Chairman and President.

During the summer of 1990, Sagula served as an assistant coach for the USA National Women’s Volleyball B Team, which trained in Walnut Creek, California. Twice he has coached at the United States Olympic Festival - in 1987 in Chapel Hill as an assistant and in 1989 in Oklahoma City as a head coach. In both cases, his teams took home silver medals.

Sagula earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts, art education, and coaching from the State University of New York, College at New Paltz in 1978. On Sept. 16, 2012, Sagula was inducted into the New Paltz Athletics Hall of Fame. He was a three-year letterwinner and captained the team as a senior.

Sagula married the former Ingrid Weber in 2008. They live in Chapel Hill with their five dogs: Oscar, Lucy, Cate, Romeo and Rigley.