Jacksonville University volleyball will be led by a pair of the brightest minds in the game as Kayla Walton was named assistant coach, as announced by Dolphin head coach Evan Muys. Both Walton and Muys were honored by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) as Thirty Under 30 Award recipients in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
"First, I would like to thank [Jacksonville Head Coach] Evan Muys and [Athletic Director] Alex Ricker-Gilbert for this opportunity as I am extremely humbled to be here at Jacksonville. I know JU is a special place, and I have already felt welcomed by not only Evan and [volleyball graduate assistant Erin Neuenfeldt], but by the athletic department as well," stated Walton. "I am eager and excited to get to work in the gym, on the recruiting trails, and on the sand with the players, and cannot wait to see what the future holds with this special program. I am excited to take this next step in my career and look forward to working next to Evan, Erin, and the JU volleyball family."
"Kayla is an excellent addition to this staff. She is not only a great coach, but also a great recruiter," Muys added. "She is from Florida, played at USF, and coached collegiately in both Arkansas and Alabama. She's is incredibly well connected nationally and has strong ties to this region, and she will only strengthen our recruiting. In addition to her recruiting strength, she's proven to be successful trainer, and has NCAA tournament coaching experience, including a Final Four during her time at Hendrix. We are excited to have her as a part of our volleyball program."
Walton joins the Dolphins after spending the 2016 season as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Samford University. Among her responsibilities, Walton oversaw Samford Volleyball's travel and recruiting budgets and served as a liaison between incoming recruits and administration. Directly in charge of the middle blockers and right side attackers, the Bulldogs saw improvement at the net from 1.8 blocks per set o 2.0 blocks per set in Southern Conference games.
With the help of Walton's guidance, Samford won its third SoCon Championship in program history, while a pair of Bulldogs were named All-SoCon selections in First Team honoree Erin Bognar and All-Rookie Team pick Kelsi Hobbs.
Prior to her time at Samford, Walton served as assistant volleyball coach, recruiting coordinator, and athletics promotions assistant at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. where she was directly responsible for the middle blockers, right side hitters, and overall blocking strategies. With Walton's expertise in defensive strategy, the Warriors became one of the top defensive teams in Division III and recorded over 2.00 blocks per set and posted over 18.00 digs per set.
That year, Hendrix broke into the Division III Top 25 poll for the first time in program history, finishing in the top 10 in the final poll, en route to an NCAA Final Four appearance. Walton coached six players to all-conference accolades, including one of the nation's top 15 blockers (Sara Dyslin) and an All-Region Honorable Mention selection (MC Rogers).
Off the court, Walton also served as the Warriors' staff liaison for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, continuously engaged fans on several social media platforms, and led the creative marketing initiatives to raise over $2,000 for Pediatric Cancer and Breast Cancer games.
Since December 2011, Walton has continued to grow her coaching repertoire while serving as head volleyball coach for several volleyball clubs along her stops. Most recently, she led Mintonette .51's to a third-place open finish and helped three players through the commitment process to Big Ten schools during their tenure with the .51's.
Walton began her collegiate playing career at the University of South Florida, where she was a two-time Big East All-Academic Team selection (2011, 2012) and a First Team All-Big East honoree. She also served as the student-athlete liaison to the Athletic Director and SAAC staff and was the Bulls' SAAC Co-President from 2011-13. She finished her collegiate career at Missouri State University in 2013, where she entered the Missouri State record books for single-season hitting percentage (.336) and earned First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference Accolades.
Walton earned her bachelor's in organizational communication from USF in 2013, and her master's in sports administration from Missouri State in 2014.