For the past six weeks, Alicia Williams has been traveling back and forth from Iowa to her new home in Peoria. Despite the long travels, the new Bradley volleyball head coach is grateful to call the Hilltop her new home.
“I’ve never moved outside of leaving home, other than college,” Williams said. “It was a difficult conversation to have with my in-laws and my mom and dad. It was difficult, but I’m glad it’s done.”
It’s been a welcoming experience for Williams, who is taking over after former Braves head coach Carol Price-Torok departed in the winter after accepting an offer at Texas San-Antonio. Price-Torok helped to flip the script of Bradley volleyball, with the team earning its first two postseason appearances in program history, the latter of which happened last fall, with her at the helm.
It was the recent success and conversations that Price-Torok and Williams shared, among other things, that helped bring the Iowa native to Peoria.
“[Senior Associate Athletic Director] Brad Chandler spoke to me on the phone and in talking to him, Carol and other people in the Valley, a lot of people said some really great things about Bradley and that they were on a really good track,” Williams said.
Before making the move this winter, Williams helped her alma mater, Iowa Western Community College, achieve great success under her leadership.
Spending nine years at the head coach position, Williams provided the program with an extended winning period, including a 335-44 (.884) record, and two NJCAA championships in the 2020-21 and 2021 seasons.
The two-time NJCAA National Coach of the Year made it known to her colleagues and family that Iowa Western was a place she loved to be, and that she felt like she could stay there for a long time.
“A lot of people were actually shocked,” Williams said. “Initially, when I had received some information on Bradley, I didn’t really think I wanted to take that jump, but I found that the people were incredible and the support was awesome.”
Williams’ interest was originally not fully set on Bradley. Her preconceptions of the Braves had been set back during her playing days not too long ago.
“When I was a player at Creighton, we were in the Missouri Valley Conference,” Williams said. “Bradley was not known for volleyball so, my initial thought was, ‘I don’t want to go to Bradley and rebuild,’ especially since I hate losing.”
Eventually, Williams looked deeper into the offer and made the decision to make her way to the Hilltop.
Since coming to campus, Williams and her family have already found some time to get used to the city and enjoy the change of scenery.
“The whole family is here now,” Williams said. “My kids just started school here; the older one just said that this school is way better than his last school because the outside equipment is better.”
While her two sons, Sam and Levi, have enjoyed the environment change, Williams has also spent a good amount of time doing what she loves to do: coaching.
“My first few weeks here, I told [the team] to stop putting me atop this pedestal because they were just so excited for me,” Williams said. “They have really taken me in like one of the family and we’ve really enjoyed each other to a great extent so far.”
With the season still months away, Williams has turned her attention into finding out the team’s strengths and weaknesses. With the departure of a program-changer like Hannah Thompson, it leaves an opportunity for someone to climb out of the giant shadow that a star player like Thompson can have on a team.
In addition to figuring out the roster pieces she’ll have for the 2022 season, Williams has also been focused on making sure that her team is in the right mindset, despite coming off the program’s second postseason appearance.
“I think you can’t focus on the past,” Williams said. “You have to start at zero each time, and lay it brick by brick.”
As for what coach she wants to be, Williams noted that she is a blend of relaxed, yet competitive. Her mentality is that if you step out on the court, you better believe you’re going to win.
“I want to win every single game; I think I’m going to win every single game,” Williams said. “Like, if we are playing Wisconsin, I still think we can win. If we don’t have that mindset, then why are we stepping out on the court?”
As to the other side of her coaching, Williams adds that her players would most likely say she is easy to relate to and cares about them.
It’s no secret that being the next one in line to replace someone like Price-Torok can be difficult shoes to fill, but if Williams’ accomplishments and spirit tell you anything, it’s that the 10th head coach in program history is about to become an even brighter spot in the history books.