Nicole Polster

The Titans gather around interim head coach Nicole Polster (middle) while facing Long Beach State on Nov. 4. (Daniela Navarro / Daily Titan)

The gym floor Nicole Polster knows so well glimmers with the glares of fluorescent lights, while shouts from the crowd intensify the play. She never thought she would go from competing on the court to a seat on the sidelines with the coaching staff. Staying close to her volleyball roots and following in her mother Debbie Green-Vargas’ footsteps, Polster’s voice is what helps guide the six girls on the court to triumph.

Like her mother, Polster has been bitten by the coaching bug and has fulfilled her passion at Cal State Fullerton as the women’s volleyball interim head coach. Polster accepted the position with the Titans in June 2021 after serving as an assistant coach with the program for two years. The opening came after Polster’s predecessor and former head coach Ashley Preston left the program for a position at the University of New Orleans.

“We thought about what we could do at that time and it really became clear in a very short time that Nicole would be the right person to lead this team,” said Greg Paules, the senior associate director of CSUF athletics. “I think you see it with the girls, I think there’s a lot of leadership amongst this team.”

Under Polster’s leadership, Julia Crawford posted a successful freshman campaign in 2019,  earning a spot on the All-Big West First Team and Freshman Team. Now in her 2021 season, Crawford is currently leading the team on offense and continuing to put up impressive numbers. Crawford said she appreciates and thanks Polster for helping her become more engaged with her teammates on the court.

“We’re both, kind of, to ourselves, but she helped me be clear on the court and encourage my teammates the way she did,” Crawford said.

After formerly serving as an assistant coach at the University of the Pacific in Northern California, Polster yearned to return to home. She said she was ecstatic to join Preston, but did not expect Preston to leave so soon. Polster credits Preston with helping her find the confidence she needed to become a head coach. 

“We clicked right away,” Polster said. “Her vision for the program and what she wanted to do and what she wanted me to do, I just couldn’t pass it up. It just all kind of lined up perfectly.”

Polster’s own volleyball journey began at just 9 years old when she played on her first travel team. However, from the time her mom was pregnant with her while coaching women’s volleyball at Long Beach State, Polster has become familiar with the courts since birth.

Despite participating in dancing, water polo and even basketball during her middle school years, seeing the Long Beach State athletes do what she wished to under the guidance of her mother made volleyball an obvious path for Polster. The success of her mother as a setter on Team USA and her constant training drew her to the setting position on the court.

Heading into her college years, Polster knew Long Beach was her preferred school despite applying to and visiting other colleges with her father as well. Although both parents were hesitant of Polster attending Long Beach where she would be under her mother’s coaching, it always came back to Long Beach when Polster scaled the pros and cons.

Polster was a four-year starter as a setter during her college years. She posted 4,695 assists on the court — the fourth best in Long Beach State history. Polster led her team to the NCAA Tournament all four years as a setter and earned three postseason All-Big West awards, including a pair of first team honors.

After college, Polster was recruited by Team USA, where she played as a setter for two years. Shortly after her time on the national team, she went overseas to play professionally in France for a year.

 

Polster said she was lost as to what she wanted to do after concluding her athletic career and her time in France. Despite her mother’s initial suggestion to become a coach, Polster took a year off to enjoy her free time.

That is until she received a phone call for an assistant coaching position at University of the Pacific. The conversation initiated a six season long coaching endeavor for Polster as she trained Pacific’s setters.

In the seasons to come, Polster said she hopes to continue showing not just women, but all student athletes what it looks like to say what you mean and mean what you say. 

If there is one thing she could wish for, it would simply be for fans to “come to our games!” 

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