Getting What Was Expected

Longtime Stevenson volleyball coach Dave Trumbo retires after 17 years on the court, nine years on the sand
Getting What Was Expected

It took Brett Adams, Stevenson University’s athletic director, three tries to convince Dave Trumbo to coach women’s volleyball at Stevenson. Seventeen years ago, when Trumbo finally budged, it was perhaps one of the best things that could happen to Stevenson University at the time.

Now, as Trumbo prepares to retire with a plethora of accomplishments, including 442 career wins and the establishment of beach volleyball teams, he goes down as one of the most respected and accomplished coaches in the history of Stevenson athletics.

However, Trumbo’s coaching career already had a name for itself prior to him joining Stevenson University.

His first coaching indulgence came when he was 13 years old, as he would help his father call plays in rec football. Eventually, he began coaching at a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed teenagers while serving as the director of recreation. After his 20-year run with the residential center ended, he found a new home at Liberty High School in Carroll County, Maryland.

Trumbo simply loved coaching, and he always wanted to coach.

“To me, I just thought that was the coolest thing,” he said, “to be able to coach a varsity sport in a high school in my county just five minutes away [from my house].”

Trumbo was not a heavy volleyball player in his early life. He had some referee experience and recreational experience as a player, but he was more involved in other sports including baseball and soccer. Yet, this is where his love for volleyball grew.

“I’m kind of a self-made coach,” Trumbo said. “Some people feel that is really refreshing because I didn’t grow up in the sport. When I started coaching volleyball at high school, I just fell in love with the sport.”

This is where he decided that volleyball would be his thing, center stage in his foreseeable future. More importantly, this is where he took advantage of a coaching opportunity, something that he always wanted to be involved in.

Even with all of his success at the recreational center, his position at Liberty humbled him really quick as he realized he did not know as much about the sport as he thought he did.

“I thought I knew something,” Trumbo said with a big laugh. “I realized I didn’t know anything. I wanted to win and I wanted to really know what I was talking about.”

Trumbo said that a key part to learning volleyball was watching those that were successful. He attended clinics and camps outside of Liberty in order to expand his knowledge of the game. The work he was putting in for himself poured out onto his teams at Liberty, the same teams that won back-to-back state titles and recorded a 59-match win streak at one point.

Then Adams discovered Trumbo. For the next seven years, Adams attempted to bring Trumbo to Stevenson University to coach women’s volleyball.

First try? Pass.

Second try? Still a pass.

Third time? He got him. Trumbo was hired as the head coach of women’s volleyball in the winter of 2007. He would begin coaching Stevenson women’s volleyball that fall.

So it all began for Trumbo at SU — coach and Mustang mentor.

Dave Trumbo retires from coaching volleyball at Stevenson University as the winningest coach in the school’s history. Photo: Grant DeVivo

The early stages of Trumbo’s career were not necessarily smooth sailing. Stevenson had just transitioned from Villa Julie College, and it had just moved into the Capital Atlantic Conference, so there was very little to work with in a women’s volleyball team at the time. In addition, because he only had the one indoor volleyball team, Trumbo was considered a part-time employee. He was still running back and forth from teaching to coaching at Stevenson.

Slowly, Trumbo’s empire began to grow. Stevenson built a new gymnasium, new court and beach volleyball teams were being formed, and the team was growing stronger with more traction and attention as a result.

When it is all said and done, Trumbo’s 17-year career at the helm of Stevenson women’s volleyball ends with a 442-119 record, 12 straight appearances to the NCAA tournament, and 12 postseason appearances in the CAC and the Middle-Atlantic Conference (MAC). His .790 winning percentage is the best in Stevenson University history, 6th amongst active coaches nationally, and 8th amongst inactive coaches nationally. He saw 21 of his players receive All-American recognitions, while 47 of his players got All-Conference selections.

He is also responsible in large part for Stevenson women’s beach volleyball, the first ever Division III women’s beach volleyball program, begun in 2016. His lifetime record at the helm of women’s beach volleyball was 95-62. That same program featured a second-place finish at the inaugural AVCA Small College National Championship in 2018, as well as a historic win over Division I Morehead State.

Trumbo is no stranger to winning. He had already achieved his goals of coaching. Coaching to win and actually winning was an ongoing goal all the way until the end. He describes himself as “coaching with a chip on my shoulder.”

“A lot of coaches don’t talk about winning to their team,” he said. “I talk about not only winning, I talk about what’s at stake. I talk about it all the time so [the expectation] is not strange for them. I explain to them what the regional rankings are and where you have to be in the regional rankings to get an at large bid in case we do not win the conference tournament, why certain games are put on our schedule and how badly we need to win.

“I talk about all that stuff to them so they know, and it’s not a surprise,” he said.

One of his favorite quotes that he would instill in his players every year is “you get what you expect.”

“If you expect to be .500, if you don’t expect to win the game, then you do not even have a prayer,” he said. “It’s the same in life. If you don’t think you will pass the test, if you don’t prepare like you will pass the test, then you are not going to [pass]. Believe in yourself and you will get what you expect, and if you are not prepared, then you are not going to have a good outcome.”

Yet, Trumbo acknowledges that he could not do all of this alone. He is very thankful for the assistance that he has had over the years, from his assistant coaches everyone involved in Stevenson Athletics.

“The assistance and the support you get at Stevenson, from athletic training, strength and conditioning, sports information, is second to none,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the assistance that I had over the years to make our program great, I couldn’t do it by myself. I know I couldn’t do it by myself. It was all about delegating to them and them having a piece of our success.

“The assistant coaches, I just felt so fortunate [to have them by my side], and I have a lot of gratitude that those coaches were available to help me,” Trumbo continued.

One of Trumbo’s fondest memories as a Mustang was the entirety of the 2013 season, when that year’s team set a school record of 37 wins, good enough to advance them to the NCAA Regional Final and slide them into No. 19 in the rankings, which was the highest ranking in program history at that time (they ranked No. 11 in 2017). A team that had faced adversity, a team whose schedules over the previous couple of seasons had gotten tougher and tougher, they took care of hard-to-beat rivals in Salisbury University and then pulled off a 3-2 series upset win over No. 8 Juniata.

You get what you expect.

— Dave Trumbo

This program has taught Trumbo the meaning behind relationships within the players who eventually become best friends over time. When asked about what he thinks about as his career comes to a close, Trumbo recalled a text message he received recently from an alumnus that signified exactly how close they had all become.

“They were all at the Orioles game,” he said while fighting back tears, “and she texted me a picture and said ‘thanks for recruiting us all, we’re best friends for life.’ That meant so much to me. It’s the relationships and the impact that I’ve been honored and privileged to make on their life [that I reflect on first].”

The players have certainly felt Trumbo’s impact. Darian Dildy is a former middle hitter who graduated in 2024 with a B.S. in business administration. She missed her junior season due to a brutal Achillies injury, but she felt the support of Trumbo every step of the way all the way to her return to the court for senior year.

“I knew the plans he had for the [2022-2023] season and I know it hurt him knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to play,” Dildy said. “I was glad I wasn’t a senior during the process because that would have been bad. Him saying ‘you have one more year,’ ‘you can do this,’ ‘I know you are going to come back better than ever and next year is going to be your year,’ it really helped me a lot when it came to the recovery process. I wanted to make sure that I was able to play better than my sophomore year to show that an injury can’t take you down forever. It’s only for a short period of time and you if you do things to make you better, the outcome is amazing.”

This is a prime example of exactly how encouraging Trumbo is for his players on and off the field, as described by Dildy.

“When it comes to being a student-athlete, he is always there for you,” said Dildy, the 2023 MAC Commonwealth Co-Player of the Year. “He will try his hardest to make [life] adjustable for you, so you’re not struggling in one end or the other.”

Sophomore right hitter Maren Zepfel echoed off Dildy. She just completed her first full year at Stevenson University with both the women’s court and beach teams. Last year, she had to make big adjustments to a culture shock, having come all the way from Westerville, Ohio for school and volleyball. Zepfel says that Trumbo helped make the transition easier for her.

“Coach Trumbo was a great coach to have while I was adjusting to college life afar from my parents for the first time,” Zepfel said. “This was the hardest thing I’ve been through in my life and Coach would ask me frequently how I was doing, and how the adjustment was going. He also made sure all the older girls were checking in on us freshman and that everything was going well.”

Dave Trumbo had a genuine care for all of his players, coaches, and peers, a trait that will certainly be missed around Stevenson women’s volleyball moving forward. Photo: Grant DeVivo

Zepfel recognizes Trumbo’s genuine care for everyone that he meets, which makes him a standout coach in her eyes.

“Truly the biggest thing that I think Coach Trumbo has that separates him from other coaches is his genuine care for every person he is around,” she said. “He wants everyone to be happy and truly hopes for the best out of everyone which shows that he cares.”

Trumbo knew that his time was coming soon. The issue was that there was never an easy or convenient time to announce it. Having coached both court and beach, there is little time between seasons to prepare for such a circumstance and quickly hire a new coach.

When he finally decided to do it, texts messages amongst the team immediately began flowing and there was not a single dry eye in the room when he and Adams addressed the team. He recalls seeing every emotion possible from his team, everything from shock to happiness to sadness. Yet, there was some positive news to be broken and some happiness to be shared when he told his team that himself, two of his former players including now-assistant coach Jessica Geiselman (’14), and the entire 2013 team would be elected to the Stevenson Athletics Hall of Fame this coming October.

“What a great cap to end my coaching career,” he said, delightedly.

In the end, all Trumbo wanted was to be involved in coaching and to win while he was at it. He got to coach for a very long time, and he won a ton along the way. Trumbo expected to coach, he expected to learn the game of volleyball and be successful in it, and he expected to win. He ended up being one of the winningest, most accomplished, and most respected coaches in not just Mustang Nation, but in Maryland.

Dave Trumbo got what he expected.

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About the Contributor
Grant DeVivo
Grant DeVivo, Senior Sports Editor
Grant is a fifth-year graduate student from Westminster, Maryland. He acquired his B.S. in business communication in May, 2024, and he is now pursuing a master's in communication. He also plays catcher and third base for the Stevenson Mustang club baseball team.
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