By Brian Roe, Sports Writer
Coach Horn watches the volleyball float as the setter gently, softly bumps it into the air before her teammate violently slams it to the gym floor. She’s seen it millions of times before, but each time she watches intently, gazing at the contrast of a delicate set-up followed by a destructive kill.
Volleyball is, after-all, a game of kills.
A former volleyball killer for Angelo State University, ACU head coach Brek Horn is no longer in the termination business but rather the creation business, creating a name for her Wildcat volleyball team and a new standard for ACU women’s athletics. Now she wants to create something even bigger: a dynasty.
Brek Binder attended Hereford High School and starred as an award-winning volleyball player. After graduating in 1992, she earned an athletic scholarship from Angelo State of the Lone Star Conference. During her freshman year at ASU, Brek helped lead her team to a LSC championship. She received numerous awards at ASU including academic all-Lone Star Conference, team MVP in 1994 and 1995 and the Nathan Jewelers Award. The award-winning standout graduated from ASU in 1996.
Brek easily transitioned from volleyball player at Angelo State to volleyball coach at Andrews High School.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing so it was only natural for me to be a coach,” she said. “Volleyball is just something I love.”
She accepted the position of junior varsity volleyball coach at Andrews High School the summer after she graduated from college. In 1998, she accepted a junior varsity coaching job at Gregory-Portland High School. While coaching there Brek met a man named Brandon Horn. She and Brandon began dating and soon were engaged. By 1999, Coach Binder became Coach Horn.
In the spring of that year, Brek was became varsity coach at GP High School. Surprisingly, she never coached a high school game on the varsity level.
In May, Brek received a phone call from her sister, Brittney, a player on the ACU volleyball team. Britney said ACU was searching for a new head volleyball coach and Brek should apply. Though hesitant, Brek applied for the ACU job and was the new Wildcat volleyball coach by July.
“I think I was the only one who applied,” she said jokingly.
Although she was only 26 and lacked experience, Brek quickly found success at ACU, molding the barren Wildcats into a winning team that made the Lone Star Conference Post-Season Tournament in her first year. A year later, Brek led the Wildcats to a 29-6 record and posted the highest winning percentage (.829) in school history. ACU also reached the conference tournament semifinals for the first time.
Now in her sixth year as the volleyball head coach Horn has more than 100 wins. She led the team to post-season play in five of her six seasons, including last year’s 25-11 season.
“She pushes us, she drives us, she makes us play tough mentally and physically,” said junior volleyball player Michelle Bernhardt. “She is a great coach because she gets the most out of her players and has such high expectations for us.”
In addition to her coaching duties, Horn joins the director of athletics Jared Mosley and the compliance coordinator Robert Rubel on the ACU athletic administrative team. Horn directly oversees women’s softball, track and cross country.
“My job as the Senior Woman Administrator is to be the female voice in the athletic department,” Horn said.
Horn said the most important duty as the Senior Woman Administrator is to preserve gender equality. She said ACU does a good job of recognizing and upholding gender equality, but balance is still needed.
For example, the ACU football team hands out more than 30 scholarships each year to male athletes. The women’s athletic programs do not include a comparable sport with that many scholarships.
“I’m not mad because the football team has so many scholarships. I just want women’s athletics to have something to balance football.”
Horn said she would like ACU to add another woman’s sport but realizes funding is not available.
“Eventually I would like to see women’s soccer or women’s golf added to our athletic department,” Horn said. “The main reason is to equalize the scholarships for men and women.”
Building a Winner
For now, her immediate goal is to win volleyball games.
“I was very clear when I accepted this position that volleyball would still come first, but my goal is to be effective at both positions.”
This year the team’s goal is to gain a berth in the regional tournament; something the ACU program has never done. After that, she wants to consistently reach the regional tournament and win some games at the tournament. Finally, her obvious long-term goal is for ACU to win a national championship.
“Hey, it took [former UCLA men’s basketball coach] John Wooden 12 or 13 years to win a national championship,” she said.
Her players have similar goals and believe Horn can elevate this team to places it’s never been before.
“She is perfect for this job because she understands the game so well and commands respect from us as players,” said junior volleyball player Amanda Slate. “She makes us work so hard, but we trust her because she played college volleyball and she knows how to win.”
Horn said the right coach doesn’t exist at ACU, but the right kind of coach does.
“I love this sport, I love this team, I love the staff,” she said. “It makes it easier for me because I’m so competitive and want to win. I just believe hard work will result in winning.”
A winning atmosphere is Horn’s new creation. Eventually, she hopes to make it mainstream for the Wildcat volleyball to be national championship contenders and to kill any doubts about ACU’s status as a national power. Maybe kill isn’t the right word because Brek Horn is not in the killing business anymore. She’s a creator.