Benson announces coaching staff that includes two prominent names both with ties to the Inland Northwest
Already proven to be an incredibly successful player-coach combination, Eastern Washington University head volleyball coach Wade Benson and former multi-sport standout Janelle Allen (formerly Ruen) will once again join forces - this time as colleagues.
Benson announced Tuesday (Jan. 29) that Janelle Allen will join his staff as an assistant coach, while Darren Buckner is added as associate head coach.
Allen was a member of the Eagle volleyball team from 1999-2002, playing one year under former head coach Pam Parks, and three for Benson during his previous EWU tenure (2000-06). Allen also competed for the EWU basketball team for three seasons.
In her four years with the volleyball program, Eastern earned a 93-27 overall record and 45-15 mark in Big Sky play. The Eagles competed in the Big Sky Championship match all four years, and advanced to the NCAA tournament twice. Allen was selected as the 2002 Big Sky MVP after leading the team to a school-record and Big Sky-record 29 wins. That same year, she was named to the AVCA All-Pacific Region Honorable Mention team, and was selected as a Sports Illustrated “Face in the Crowd.”
“Like Duke’s mentality in men’s basketball, I am an advocate of bringing back people who have been associated with the program and school, and especially with my coaching style,” said Benson. “I know Janelle is a diligent worker, and I think she can add so much credibility to this program as someone who is from this area, and a former player who was successful at this school and in the national spotlight. I think all of those things can add to a parent’s comfort in sending their daughter to Eastern Washington. Instead of coaches just talking about it, here is someone who actually lived it.”
Following her Eastern career, Allen played professionally on the former AVP Beach Volleyball Tour. In 2008, she joined Benson’s staff at Auburn as the Director of Volleyball Operations for one season. She has since been coaching both basketball and volleyball in Southern California, while also serving as Program Coordinator for the USA Youth Volleyball League.
Buckner, who grew up in Spokane, Wash., comes to Eastern with more than 20 years of coaching experience at all levels. Prior to joining the EWU staff, he was the head coach for two years at Laramie County Community College in Laramie, Wyo. He was previously on the volleyball staffs at UC-Davis, Regis University in Denver and Jacksonville (Fla.) University. Buckner also spent time as a high school coach in Oregon, as well as club coach for several nationally-esteemed volleyball clubs in Oregon and Colorado.
“A competitive, positive and passionate coaching style is what I like having around me, and that is exactly what Darren brings,” said Benson. “He is someone who has been around the block in the coaching world, and has coached at a lot of different levels, both as a head coach and assistant coach. He has great ties to the Northwest, having lived in Spokane and Portland, and in Colorado for a time, so that is really going to help on the recruiting side. He is also someone who wants to live and make a home in the Spokane area, therefore, we have a chance to keep him around for a long period of time.”
Buckner and Benson have known each other since the late 1980s, when they competed against one another in various USA Volleyball men’s open championships. The two continued to cross paths, and were even coaching rivals for competing clubs in Oregon during the ‘90s.
Associate Head Coach
Portland State ‘00
Darren Buckner enters his first season as associate head volleyball coach at Eastern Washington University.
Buckner comes to Cheney with more than 20 years of coaching experience at all levels. He played collegiately at Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach. Calif., and also competed at several USA Volleyball Men’s Open National Championships.
For the past two years, Buckner has been the head volleyball coach at Laramie County Community College in Laramie, Wyo. After taking over the reins of the program in 2011, Buckner led the team to an 18-12 overall record and fourth-place finish in the Region IX North Conference. He had his second-straight winning season in 2012, as the Golden Eagles finished 17-15 overall.
Before earning the head coaching job at LCCC, Buckner spent one season as an assistant coach at UC Davis. With the Mustangs, Buckner not only assisted with all technical development and on-court coaching, but was directly involved with recruiting, scouting, video distribution, budgeting and scheduling for the team. He was also the head administrator for the UC Davis Volleyball Summer Camp.
He has also made stops at Regis University in Denver, Colo., where he was an assistant coach for three seasons from 2001-03, and Jacksonville (Fla.) University.
He has also coached for three nationally-esteemed volleyball clubs, including Nike NW Juniors (Portland, Ore.), Boulder VBC (Boulder, Colo.) and Colorado Performance VBC (Denver, Colo.). Buckner also assisted with two Portland-area high schools and served on collegiate summer camp staffs for more than 15 years.
Buckner graduated from Portland State in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences. Buckner chose PSU after watching his sister, Michelle, play volleyball there for two seasons. Michelle was a 1994 AVCA Second-Team All-American, and a 1994 Volleyball Magazine Third-Team All-American. A setter for the Vikings, she led PSU to back-to-back Pacific West Conference titles, tallying 2,974 assists in her two years, which ranks fifth in the PSU record book.
Buckner was born in Tacoma, Wash., but grew up in Spokane, attending elementary school, middle school and his first two years of high school at Mead, where his father, Tom Buckner, coached track and field. A prominent downhill ski racer in high school, Buckner then moved to Sandy, Ore., where he graduated from the Mt. Hood Ski Education Foundation in 1988.
Buckner, and his wife, Sarah, have two daughters, Ryley (6) and Skylar (3).
Eastern Washington ‘03
A native of Post Falls, Idaho, Allen enters her first season as an assistant volleyball coach at her alma mater.
Her renowned career started at Post Falls High School, where she was a league MVP in both volleyball and basketball. She earned first-team All-State honors for both sports, and at the time of her graduation, held the Trojan school record for points in basketball and kills in volleyball.
Initially earning a scholarship for basketball, Allen played, and excelled, in both sports at Eastern Washington. She was honored in 2001 and 2002 as the Inland Northwest Female Athlete of the Year by the Spokane Sportswriters and Broadcasters.
Allen completed her final year in volleyball as the 2002 Big Sky Conference MVP after leading Eastern to a 29-2 record and the Big Sky Conference regular-season title. Those 29 wins still remain as the best single-season record of any Big Sky team throughout history.
When she departed EWU, Allen ranked 12th in Big Sky history and third at EWU in career digs with 1,298, while her 1,268 kills ranked second all-time in school history. More than a decade later, she still ranks in the top 10 in both categories at EWU.
Allen is the only Eagle volleyball player to record more than 1,100 kills and 1,100 digs in her career.
A 2002 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Pacific Region honorable mention selection, Allen played in every Eagle volleyball match since her freshman season, appearing in a total of 417 sets. Eastern won 93 of those 120 matches for an impressive winning percentage of .778.
Her 419 kills in 2002 ranked fifth in the EWU single-season record book, as did her 415 digs. She also ranked high in other EWU career categories as well, including kills per game (3.04/fifth), digs per game (3.88/fifth), hitting percentage (.253/sixth), hitting attempts (3,212/third) and service aces (140/second).
In addition to her conference MVP honor, Allen was a first team All-Big Sky and All-Big Sky Tournament selection for two-consecutive years. She won four Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors in 2002 and seven in her career, and won a total of seven all-tournament honors during her tenure.
She became the first female athlete at EWU to receive All-Big Sky honors in two sports in the same year when she was an honorable mention selection in basketball in the 2000-2001 season, after earning second team All-Big Sky honors in volleyball in the fall.
In 56 career games in basketball, Allen averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals, while making 49.3 percent of her field goal attempts and 70.6 percent of her free throws. In the 2002-03 season, Allen helped Eastern to a 17-12 record, which at the time, represented Eastern's most wins since 1988 and a six-game improvement over the previous season.
She earned Academic All-District VIII honors as a senior in volleyball when she was also selected as a 2002 Sports Illustrated "Face in the Crowd." Allen earned seven Big Sky Conference All-Academic honors, including four in volleyball and three in basketball.
After graduating from Eastern in 2003, Allen went on to play professional beach volleyball, including five seasons on the former AVP Beach Volleyball Tour. She competed in more than 50 national tournaments, placing as high as ninth two times. She also competed internationally at FIVB challenger/satellite events in Hong Kong and Poland, placing seventh and second, which marked her best finish as a pro.
In her rookie season in 2006, Allen and partner Jennifer Snyder, ranked 42nd on the tour and then improved to 40th the next year. Allen was nominated for the Rookie of the Year Award in 2006.
On Aug. 17, 2006, Ruen was chosen to ring the opening bell at the New York Mercantile Exchange in New York City and in 2008, she appeared in the motion picture “Impact Point” distributed by Sony Pictures.
In 2008, Allen joined Benson’s staff at Auburn as director of volleyball operations. She spent one season with the Tigers before returning to California, where she lives with her husband, Billy Allen - also a professional beach volleyball player.
Allen has been a head coach for the Sports Shack Volleyball Club for the last four years, and has served as Programs Coordinator for the United States Youth Volleyball League. She manages more than 30 youth volleyball programs throughout the U.S., helping recruit, train and supervise all coaches and staff.
She also coaches volleyball at Wildwood School in Los Angeles, Calif., and basketball at Vistamar School.