Leslie Flores-Cloud isn’t afraid of hard work.
It’s one of the reasons she has swiftly climbed the coaching ladder. As a player, she put in the time to help La Verne reach three NCAA Division III Final Fours in her four seasons.
Flores-Cloud’s latest assignment, rebuilding the Eastern Washington University volleyball program, appears to be a handful on paper, but she’s driven by challenges.
“Hard work has gotten me to where I am,” Flores-Cloud said in her introductory press conference Monday. “If I was standing up, you’d see how short I am in a sport of really, really tall women, so obstacles like that make me go.”
Flores-Cloud replaces Michael King, who was fired along with assistant Nathan Fristed in March. Eighteen players exited the program in King’s three seasons.
Flores-Cloud agreed to a five-year contract, EWU athletic director Lynn Hickey said. She was at Drake the last five years, helping head coach Darrin McBroom elevate the Bulldogs from a 2-28 record in 2013 to a 23-10 mark last season.
“She’s a keeper, so we want to do everything we can to give her a good start,” Hickey said. “What we’re asking of her is to add some stability to the program and develop a culture [where] kids can not only be competitive, but be very well taken care of as people.
“All the feedback we kept getting is she’s a rising star.”
Flores-Cloud, 33, grew up in Southern California and her husband Aaron was on Whitworth’s football and track teams. She was a graduate assistant at USC and also had stints at Loyola Marymount and Pasadena City College.
Flores-Cloud’s time at Drake overlapped with that of men’s basketball coach Ray Giacoletti, EWU’s former coach. She texted Giacoletti on the day before her interview, and he offered glowing reviews of EWU and the Inland Northwest.
“This has always been a school on my radar, where I thought I could go and make a difference,” Flores-Cloud said.
The Eagles return six players from last year’s 7-18 team. Flores-Cloud has been able to retain the incoming class of seven, six freshmen and one transfer, recruited by the former staff.
“It’s nice to hear from someone who has a plan of action for the program,” junior outside hitter Kahle Elliott said. “We’re excited to hit the ground running.”
There were nearly 40 applicants for the coaching position. Hickey conducted seven interviews via Skype and three finalists were brought in for on-campus interviews.
“Leslie kept floating to the top,” Hickey said.
Flores-Cloud’s priorities include settling into a home and hiring her staff. She finalized EWU’s schedule earlier on Monday.
Flores-Cloud has had chances at other head coaching jobs or to become an assistant at Power 5 schools, but in the process she always considered a saying from Don Flora, her coach at La Verne.
“He kept telling me, ‘What’s happier than happy?’” Flores-Cloud said. “At the time, I had to think about that, because I was really happy at Drake. I finally got the opportunity to be happier.”
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