There's no place like home for Olympian Ruth Lawanson.
In her sixth season as an assistant coach at Fresno State, Lawanson is back on old stomping grounds after serving as a three-year graduate assistant coach for the Bulldogs as well as being a four-year standout and All-American in the Bulldog Red and Blue.
Spending four years as an assistant coach at Purdue, Lawanson joined head coach Lindy Vivas' staff in May of 1999 and is responsible for the outside hitters as well as recruiting.
"We're extremely thrilled that Ruth is back at Fresno State," Vivas said. "She is a charismatic person and an incredible athlete for students to emulate. Having played at such a high level, she brings a tremendous amount of experience athletically and as a recruiter nationally and internationally. She has an extensive coaching background on the collegiate, national and international level as well as being a renowned figure locally, regionally and nationally."
Lawanson is equally as thrilled.
"I'm very excited to get a chance to come back to my alma mater and help do some great things," Lawanson said. "I grew up just a few miles from Fresno State and I'm very proud to have been a Bulldog. As a home grown product, I didn't do too bad for myself. I'd like to see the talented athletes stay closer to home and I appreciate another opportunity to be part of the Bulldog family."
Before Purdue, Lawanson played professionally overseas for three seasons with stops in Italy (1992-94) and France (1994-95). Prior to that Lawanson had a four-year stint with the U.S. National Team that culminated with her being a member of the 1992 bronze-medal winning U.S. Olympic team in Barcelona, Spain. Earlier she played for the 1991 World Cup squad that played in Japan and the 1990 World Championship squad that traveled to China; both times earning bronze medals and garnering the 1991 Judy Bellomo Players Award.
Lawanson also played Major League Volleyball (1987-89) with the Dallas Belles and Minnesota Monarches and was the 1988 league MVP. In 1989, she was a USVBA All-American with the national champion Crysler Californians.
In 1984, Lawanson not only rewrote the Bulldog volleyball record book but also made school history in women's athletics. She became the first female athlete, first athlete in a sport other than football, fourth athlete overall and first volleyball player to have her jersey number (15) retired. She also was a recipient of the Rosa Parks Award in 1984.
As the 1984-85 Fresno State Female Athlete of the Year, she guided the Bulldog volleyball squad to its finest season in school history as they jumped into the NCAA Top 20 rankings for the first time. That team tied for fifth in the nation at the NCAA Tournament after finishing with a 26-13 overall record. Two years prior, Lawanson played for the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic Festival West Region team.
The 5-8 setter/hitter posted a stellar career at Fresno State from 1981-84. A three-time Fresno State volleyball MVP, she set season (488) and career (962) records for kills and a season record for service aces (55) in 1984 to garner All-America honors on the CVCA/Russell Athletic 12-member first team, becoming Fresno State's first volleyball All-American. She also captured a spot on the ASICS/Tiger All-America second team as well as being NorPac co-Player of the Year, All-NorPac first team, All-NorPac Tournament, and All-Northwest Region.
Recently honored as one of Fresno State's Top 25 Greatest Athletes (2001) and inducted into the inaugural Clovis West High School Wall of Fame (2001), Lawanson also has been singled out as one of the Central Valley's Top 25 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century (2000). In addition, she is a member of the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame (1997) and has been honored by The Bulldog Foundation with a plaque for her career at Fresno State and her community service since graduation (2003). Lawanson has conducted a number of camps and clinics across the country since 1984. With an option in accounting, she received her bachelor of science degree in business administration from Fresno State in 1987.
In fall 2002 she was elected to the American Volleyball Coaches Association's Board of Directors where she is responsible for overseeing Division I assistant coaches. In the summer of 2002 Lawanson married Shawn Kenan.