Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Same place same faces

Same place same faces

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is home to some of the top sports programs in Division III. This is in part due to the high level of coaching the teams have to offer. What many don’t know is that some of these coaches got their start here at Whitewater in their playing days.

This includes recently hired head football coach Jace Rindahl. Rindahl played linebacker for the Warhawks during the 2005-08 seasons. As a player he won DIII defensive player of the year award as a senior in the 2008 season. He was also a part of the first national championship team in Warhawk football history in 2007. After serving as a linebackers coach he was named the defensive coordinator in 2021 up until he was named head coach before this season. Coaching was always something Rindahl knew he wanted to do.  

“Coming out of high school I knew that I would be involved with sports in some way,” Rindahl said. “I didn’t know the college football thing could be a reality coming out of high school. I still had some undergrad credits left so that’s how I got exposed to college football coaching.”

Another UWW coach that knew they wanted to get into coaching is head coach of the women’s soccer team Dan Montanye. Montanye is another recent UWW athletics hire, taking over the same time Rindahl took over the football program.

As a player he was able to help lead the Warhawks to an NCAA tournament appearance three times, one of them being a quarterfinals run. He was also a two time All-WIAC selection and is top 10 in Whitewater history in career goals and assists.

Unlike Rindahl, Montanye took a different path to becoming head coach at Whitewater. Starting as an assistant after his playing days, Montanye then went to play semi pro soccer until he went to be the head coach at Iowa Wesleyan in 2015 and then at Olivet from 2016-19.

“I came back to Whitewater to get my foot in the door for coaching. So I jumped onto the staff of the coach that I previously played for. And that’s how I got started,” Montanye said. “I left in order to become head coach with the intention of getting that experience to be able to come back and take over at Whitewater and the opportunity arose. Whitewater is where I saw myself and finally getting back here as a head coach is really rewarding.”

The newer coaches aren’t the only ones who had their playing days at Whitewater. Softball head coach Brenda Volk has led the UWW softball program since 1999 and has turned it into a powerhouse. As a coach Volk has an outstanding record of 728-306-5. Volk is the only coach in WIAC history to get to 700 wins and only the tenth active coach.

As a player she was a four-year letter winner and received All-Conference honors in 1990 and 1991, as well as All-Region honors in 1991. Volk was inducted into the UW-Whitewater Athletics Hall of Fame as a player in 2010. Since Volk first started at Whitewater things have changed quite a bit. 

The game has just grown tremendously since my playing days and even early coaching days. Kids play softball almost year round now and many specialize in just softball. There are so many travel teams which we didn’t have when I played and tournaments taking place so recruiting has gotten way more competitive,” Volk said. “The use of social media has also changed the recruiting aspect of coaching as well. It’s great to see the opportunities that young athletes have now to play the sports they choose to play.”

Similar to Volk is head baseball coach John Vodenlich. Much like Volk, Vodenlich has turned the baseball program into one of the powerhouses of DIII. He started out as an assistant coach for Whitewater from 1994-97. He then left for a season to be head coach at Edgewood College. He then returned after one season.

He remained as an assistant coach until he was hired to become the head coach in 2004. Since then, Whitewater has won two national titles, one in 2005 and the other in 2014. He also won coach of the year those two years. During his time the Warhawks have also made it twice to the national championship. As a player he finished with a .397 career batting average, good for third all-time in school history. His .456 average in 1991 is the third best single season average in program history. Vodenlich was named to the ABCA Hall of Fame this season. 

Mike Johnson, coach of track and field, also earned his degree from Whitewater. Johnson took over in 2010. As a coach he has led the men to top 10 finishes at national meets. For the women he has led them to top 30 finishes nine times out of their 11 national championship appearances.

As an athlete he helped bring the Warhawks  from one of the worst teams in the league towards the top. He medaled numerous times at conference championships. Unlike other coaches, Johnson didn’t know coaching was something he wanted to do until he was given the opportunity. 

“When I was done competing my teammates asked me to stay around and help since I was finishing my undergrad. Surprisingly I found out I really enjoyed it and decided to pursue a masters degree in a related field,” Johnson said. “From there, it opened doors for me to be a coach. Some changes were made after I left and the athletic director I had as an athlete asked if I wanted to take the job and it went from there.”

These coaches have seen success at not only a coaching level but made their mark as Warhawk athletes as well. Whitewater may produce great athletes but the coaches developed in these halls have made a lasting impression as well.


Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Brian Gale
Brian Gale, Women's Sports Journalist

Comments (0)

The Royal Purple encourages readers to voice their opinions via the online comments section. Comments may be monitored for appropriateness and viewer safety. If a comment is harassing, threatening or inappropriate in nature, it may be taken down with editor's discretion.
All Royal Purple Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *