In San Antonio, the name Neugebauer is instantly connected with success. That’s because Neugebauer is enshrined in the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame.
UTSA volleyball’s Head Coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Feb. 2011. She is currently married to Dwayne Groff and has two children. Groff is a San Antonio native and was a star athlete in her days at Jefferson High School. She became a dominating player and an All-American athlete at the University of Texas at Austin. The Longhorns won four consecutive Southwest Conference Championships with Groff as their captain from 1982 to 1985. While she was in Austin, Groff really focused on her love of coaching.
“It goes back to middle and high school for myself. Immediately when I went to college I knew that’s what I wanted to be,” said Groff.
After graduating from UT, Groff also pursued a professional international career in the West German Volleyball league from 1986 through 1987. A year later, she returned to the U.S. and played for Major League Volleyball’s Chicago Breeze. In 1995, Groff participated in the University World Games hosted in Japan.
Groff was named head coach of UTSA in 2001, and since then, she has become the volleyball program’s most successful coach, with 180 wins at UTSA, including 12 through 17 games this season. She believes that UTSA’s success begins in finding the right players. The biggest characteristic Groff looks for in potential UTSA players is how competitive they are.
“We’d like to be a NCAA tournament contender every year. I will help them become the best Division I volleyball player they can be,” Groff said. “There’s always room for improvement. I want them to be mature and be consistent. Take Brittney Malloy, she can jump over ten feet, but I can teach her volleyball. “
Consistent with her message, some of Groff’s players are the best players and students at UTSA. Last season, libero Kelsey Jewasko won a couple of All-America Academic awards and became the program’s all-time leader in digs with 2,280; senior setter Kelsey Schwirtlich won the Southland Conference’s Setter of the Year; and current junior outside hitter McKenzie Adams won the Southland Conference’s Newcomer of the Year.
As a team, the Roadrunners swept a program record 12 opponents in a row in 2011 and reached their second consecutive Southland Conference Championship match, but eventually lost to rival Texas State Bobcats. In 2010, the Roadrunners won 22 matches, the most in Groff’s tenure, and won the Southland West Division Title. That season, Groff reached 400 wins in her career.
Groff also has high expectations for her players in the classroom. “I want to make them productive women in the real world,” Groff said. “It’s unacceptable for them not to graduate.”
For Groff, “seeing a kid become the best they can be” is the most rewarding part of coaching. One of the biggest challenges for the head coach can be related to her duties as a mother to her own children. “I feel like there’s so much ‘mom-work’, but it’s important that we responded to them in a positive way that will help them.”
This season, the Roadrunners overall record is 12-5 and 5-2 in Western Athletic Conference play. The Roadrunners may have changed conferences but Groff still has the same high expectations for her team. She continues to invite fans to the games.
Groff’s passion for coaching and her dedication to the players keep the program alive and makes her an integral contribution to the program and to the San Antonio community. In 2002, San Antonio Express-News recognized Groff’s incredible effort, and named her one the city’s most influential people in women’s sports.