Editor’s note: This profile on Jane Gibbs Becker ’04 is the fifth in a 13-part series by Valerie Turgeon ’13 on the alumni who will be inducted into the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 19. Read a new profile every weekday in tommiesports.com.
Jane Gibbs Becker ’04 is in her fourth season as head coach for the Augsburg volleyball team and always strives for a win against her alma mater, but she is a Tommie at heart.
“The first time I visited St. Thomas, I felt like it was home. And even now I just live two blocks away from campus,” Becker said, laughing.
Her decision to attend St. Thomas and play for the volleyball team was influenced by Penny (Thompson) Starkey ’93, inducted into the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998 and the only volleyball player in the hall until now.
During Becker’s senior year of high school, she and Starkey coached club volleyball together in Lakeville. Starkey’s husband, Brady, was an assistant coach for St. Thomas and talked to Becker about playing there. After a visit to campus and spending time with the team, she felt a connection and knew that attending St. Thomas was the right decision.
Becker’s four St. Thomas teams finished 97-31 and won regular-season conference titles in 2002 and 2003. She was named MIAC Player of the Year as a senior in 2003, is a two-time All-America and four-time All-MIAC honoree in volleyball as a setter, and set four school records for assists.
“As a team we were all best friends and we all still are,” she said. “It was a very special group of ladies. After being a coach for awhile now, I have seen that not every team clicks like ours did.”
Becker remembers her senior year as being one of the best, especially after a strong season-opening tournament.
“We went to Puget Sound and we had some tough teams to play,” she said. “I remember vividly walking from the van to the gym and telling the team to walk into the place like you own it. We won every match, and that set up our whole season.”
The pep talks and encouragement haven’t stopped coming from Becker. Heading into her 10th season as a volleyball coach, she has been able to help every team turn around and climb in the rankings.
After graduation from St. Thomas, Becker was an assistant coach at Gardner-Webb in North Carolina (2004-06), where she also earned a master’s degree in sports science and pedagogy. She then was an assistant coach at UW-River Falls (2006) and head coach at Luther College (2007-09).
She took the Norse from a 3-27 finish in 2006 to one of their best seasons at 26-12 in 2007, finishing second in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The team advanced for the first time to the NCAA Division III tournament, where it fell to St. Thomas in the second round. She was IIAC Coach of the Year in 2009.
Becker became head coach at Augsburg in 2010. The following year, she led her team to a 16-12 record and a fifth-place finish (7-4) in the MIAC, the Auggies’ highest win total since 1985. They also earned their second MIAC postseason tournament berth. Last year, Augsburg again was 16-12 and went 4-0 at the Augsburg Invitational to claim the tournament title for the first time since 1985.
When Augsburg faces St. Thomas, Becker said, “I have a lot of respect for the team and for Coach (Thanh) Pham. I want to beat St. Thomas, but when we’re not playing against them, I always want them to win. Their nationals win last year meant a lot to me. I think St. Thomas has an awesome program and that sets the bar high for us.”
Becker has had a lot of success as a player and coach, but said induction into the Hall of Fame “is the best honor I’ve received in volleyball.” She is excited to celebrate the occasion with her husband, Jon, and their four-month-old son George.
“I will always be very grateful for the coaching and support I received from Cole Tallman, Thanh Pham and all the assistant coaches who worked with me,” she said. “Also, I appreciate all the time, support and guidance I received from JoAnn Andregg (associate athletic director), Steve Fritz (athletic director) and Willy McCoy (equipment manager).”
Jake Barkley 2003 Football
Nikki Conway 2006 Softball
Roman Cress 2003 Track & Field
Carrie Embree 2007 Softball, Basketball
Jane Gibbs-Becker 2004 Volleyball
Kristal Grigsby 2006 Track & Field
Andrew Hilliard 2003 Track & Field, Football
Diane Loughlin Urick 1989 Track & Field, Cross Country
Janet Nagle 2006 Softball
Steve Pignato 1997 Baseball
Isaac Rosefelt 2007 Basketball
Tessie Thompson 2003 Soccer
Michelle Wong 2005 Softball