Notre Dame hires Penn State assistant Salima Rockwell as its next head volleyball coach

NDI Report
Salima Rockwell is announced as the new head coach for Notre Dame volleyball.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame will have a new volleyball coach next season.

Salima Rockwell, a four-time national champion assistant coach and three-time All-American at Penn State, has been named the seventh head coach in Notre Dame volleyball history, the university announced Thursday.

"We’re excited to have Salima join the Notre Dame family,” Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said in a news release. “Salima has succeeded at every level — as a student-athlete, professional athlete, collegiate coach and broadcaster — and we are excited to see what her team accomplishes."

Swarbrick announced last month the former coach Michael Johnson would not return to the program after four seasons. Johnson guided the Irish to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances in 2019 and in 2020-21 (the 2020 NCAA Tournament was conducted in the spring of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Johnson was 63-41 overall, including a 13-15 mark this past season. 

Rockwell spent nine years coaching at Penn State, holding titles of associate head coach, assistant coach and director of operations over two different stints (2006-2009 and 2015-17). Her primary duties included working with the setters and the offense, recruiting and match preparation.

“Notre Dame volleyball is a program that is right on the edge of greatness, and it is my mission to provide the student-athletes with the high-level and well-rounded opportunities they would expect when they chose Notre Dame,” Rockwell said. "... Notre Dame volleyball has only scratched the surface of what it can be and I cannot wait to get started with the team to build our legacy.”

As a student-athlete, Rockwell was a three-time All-American setter for the Nittany Lions from 1991-94. She was named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team in 1993, when she helped lead Penn State to a NCAA Championship runner-up finish, and then again in 1994.

Rockwell also earned All-Big Ten accolades four times, including three First Team selections. She helped the Nittany Lions capture Big Ten championships in 1992 and 1993.

Rockwell was also a member of the U.S. National Team from 1995-99. She captained the team in 1997 and 1998, serving as the starting setter and earning the Coaches Award, MVP and the Team Award in each of those seasons.

Between her two coaching tours in Happy Valley, Rockwell spent five seasons (2009-2013) at the University of Texas, helping lead the Longhorns to the 2012 National Championship title, its first in almost 25 years. Before returning to Penn State for the first time, Rockwell spent the 2005 season as an assistant coach at Oregon State under legendary head coach Terry Liskevych.

A native of Pittsburgh, Rockwell began her coaching career as an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh from 2001-03.

Rockwell graduated from Penn State University in 1994 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Speech Communications. She is married to Jeff Rockwell and the couple has two sons, Logan and Rylan.

The Notre Dame volleyball program has made 21 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, has seen 18 players combine for 27 All-American honors and captured a combined 31 regular-season and tournament conference championships.