In seven years as the head coach of one of the most successful Army programs, Alma Kovaci has proven to be one of the best young volleyball coaching minds in the country. During her tenure at West Point, Kovaci has authored a 151-59 (.719) record and led Army to the 2009 Patriot League title. The 2009 team captured the program's first championship since 1994 and fourth overall, and the Black Knights punched their ticket to the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time in the program's 35-year history.
Kovaci reached the 75-win plateau faster than any other coach in Army volleyball history, accomplishing the feat in her third year at West Point. The Black Knights have averaged 21 wins per season and enjoyed five 20-plus-win campaigns during her impressive tenure. Kovaci became the third coach in Army history to reach the century mark at West Point in 2011, joining legendary head coach Bob Gambardella (1983-1995) and her mentor, Glen Conley (1999-2006).
A native of Tirana, Albania, Kovaci became the seventh Army head coach in 2007 in what was her first head coaching appointment. Since ascending into a head coaching role, she garnered back-to-back Patriot League Coach of the Year honors in 2008 and 2009, while also developing Army's only two AVCA All-Northeast Region honorable mention all-stars (Jamie Clark `08, Ariana Mankus `13) and 26 All-Patriot League selections. The elite group includes three-time Setter of the Year Maureen Bannon, two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Ariana Mankus, 2010 Patriot League Rookie of the Year Megan Wilton, 2013 Patriot League Rookie of the Year Olivia Fairfield, and two-time Patriot League Setter of the Year Mary Vaccaro. Since arriving at West Point in 2003, she has mentored five three-time All-Patriot League selections and one four-time honoree in Bannon.
In perhaps her most memorable season on the sidelines, Kovaci faced a tough test heading into the 2009 campaign after losing four all-league players and five starters at the end of 2008. A testament to her recruiting success and motivational tactics, she turned a 2009 team that featured five new starters into an NCAA Tournament team. Army headed into the postseason with a 26-5 mark after going 12-2 to capture the Patriot League regular-season title for the second year in a row. She went on to lead Army to an 18-14 mark in 2010, a 23-8 record in 2011, and a 20-9 mark in 2012. In 2013, Army went 14-13.
No stranger to Army's volleyball program when she assumed the reins in 2007, Kovaci served as the Black Knights' assistant coach from 2003-2006. Army has made the four-team Patriot League Tournament field every season since her arrival at West Point, which stands as a Patriot League record.
In just her first year in the head coaching role, Kovaci produced a 24-5 record, including a second-place conference finish at 12-2 and a ninth-straight trip to the Patriot League Tournament. Kovaci's club went 14-1 at home and appeared on national television twice that fall.
Kovaci cultivated her skills as Glen Conley's top aide for four years, making West Point's decision to hire her as head coach a rather easy one. In her assistant role, Kovaci helped produce the 2004 Patriot League Player of the Year, Caitlin Machon, and the conference's top player in 2005, Abby Casciato.
While serving as an assistant coach at Army, Kovaci remained active on the court. In January 2005, she was called back from the states to play as a member of the Albanian National Team when it competed at the FIVB World Championships in Sheffield, England. During the week-long event, she was listed as the seventh best digger in the world and ranked among the top-15 best hitters.
Kovaci's prominence as one of the top Albanian players was apparent early in her career. In 1996, Albania spearheaded a campaign called Vision 2000, which projected who its top athletes would be over the next three years. Kovaci was the committee's selection as the country's top volleyball player. Along with the recognition, Kovaci took part in various television spots and met with many Albanian and international dignitaries.
Kovaci arrived on the banks of the Hudson following a one-year stint at Centre College in Danville, Ky., where she served as a volunteer assistant coach during the 2002 season. Under her tutelage, the Colonels went 23-19 and placed two team members on the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference second team.
Prior to her coaching tenure at Centre College, Kovaci played in the United States Professional Volleyball League with the Grand Rapids Force during its inaugural season in 2002. In addition to playing in the four-team league, Kovaci guided high school teams and performed public relations work during her one season in the USPV. She finished second in the league in digs per game. Kovaci also played competitively in the adult USAV league.
A 2002 graduate of Temple University, Kovaci earned a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. Kovaci was an immediate standout on the court at Temple, serving as the Owls' captain in 1999 and 2000, while helping them to three-straight Atlantic 10 titles (1997-99). She earned AVCA All-America honors in each of those same years, and was named to the AVCA All-District team in 1998, 1999 and 2000. In addition, ASICS lauded Kovaci as an All-American in 1999 and 2000. The two-time Atlantic 10 Conference Most Valuable Player led the Owls in virtually every category her senior season. That marked Kovaci's third major award from the conference as she picked up Rookie of the Year plaudits in 1997. In her senior season, she played in 79 games, tallied 492 kills and registered 315 digs. Kovaci also led the team with 29 service aces and ended the season second in hitting percentage (.275).
Kovaci concluded her decorated collegiate career just 18 kills shy of the all-time record with 2,046 and graduated as the school record holder for career digs with 1,632. Her career-high 38 kills in a three-game match versus George Washington in 1999 still stands second all-time in NCAA history. It is the most kills for a three-game match since 2001. Kovaci punctuated her career during the 25th Anniversary season of the Atlantic 10 when she was named the Owls' top volleyball player in 25 years of A-10 competition.
Fitting after authoring such a fine collegiate career, Kovaci became the first volleyball player inducted into the Temple Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 15, 2011.
She has assisted with the Bob Bertucci Volleyball Summer Program and helped with the Frostburg State Volleyball Summer Program in 2001. Fluent in three languages (English, Albanian, Italian), Kovaci was also a Synergy Volleyball Camps clinician in 1999 and 2000 and a volunteer assistant coach for the Synergy Volleyball Club in 1999 and 2000. She has conducted numerous volleyball camps and clinics at West Point as well.
Prior to the 2006 campaign, Kovaci attended the NCAA Women Coaches Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. She was one of 25 female coaches in the NCAA selected to participate. Kovaci was awarded a scholarship to attend the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators conference in June. She has served as a panelist at a number of public functions, including a National Ethics in America panel that specifically focused on ethics in sports. She was also named the winner of the Coach Mike Krzyzewski Teaching Character Through Sport Award in the corps squad leader division.
Kovaci, resides at West Point, N.Y., and holds professional credentials with the AVCA, while serving as the Patriot League's representative to the organization. She has also been a member of the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association and continues to chair the AVCA subcommittee on marketing. Kovaci represents the Patriot League on the All-Region voting committee as well.