DANA CRANSTON | ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH
The 2019 season is the third season that Dana Cranston (Hallisey) has been part of the Montana volleyball program, including first as associate head coach.
She oversees the Grizzlies’ middle blockers and in-match blocking assignments, in addition to scouting preparation. Under Cranston’s guidance, Montana has jumped 103 spots in the national rankings from 2016 to 2018, increasing its blocks-per-set average by nearly a half-block. During that time, Montana has risen from last to sixth in the Big Sky Conference in that category.
The Grizzlies, while still building their foundation, have upped their win total in each of the past two seasons. Montana broke through in the fall by qualifying for the Big Sky tournament for the first time since 2014. The team's 10 wins were its most since 2013.
In addition to her daily roles on the court, Cranston's effects have been felt in a variety of ways. She pushed to get season tickets added for the first time in school history, which helped Montana record its highest season attendance average in 23 years. She also led an initiative to welcome back more than a dozen former players in 2018 for the program's first alumni weekend in more than a decade. Additionally, Cranston has played a large role in elevating the program's social media channels, creating Instagram and Snapchat accounts and growing online engagement to new levels.
Cranston was hired in February 2017 after spending one season as a volunteer assistant at her alma mater, Colorado State. The Rams won 21 matches and advanced to their 22nd consecutive NCAA tournament in 2016.
A native of Fort St. John, B.C., Cranston, who competed for Colorado State as an outside hitter from 2009-12, is one of the top players in CSU history. She earned All-Mountain West honors as a junior and senior, and in 2012 was named the league’s Player of the Year. Additionally, Cranston was an AVCA All-American, a Capital One Academic All-American and a finalist for the prestigious Senior CLASS Award.
The Rams went 96-25 in four years with Cranston on the roster, winning four Mountain West titles and advancing to the NCAA tournament each season. There, the Rams picked up wins over Cal State Fullerton, Middle Tennessee State, Oregon and Washington, and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2009. CSU spent the majority of Cranston's career nationally ranked, and earned several top-25 victories, including over No. 5 Nebraska and No. 6 Washington.
Cranston spent five years in the Team Canada system, much of it alongside former Griz standout Jaimie Thibeault. They were teammates on Canada’s national team that represented its country for three summers of international competitions around the world (Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Russia and across Europe), nearly qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games. During that time, Cranston also played professionally in both France and Germany.
Cranston, who earned a degree in business administration from Colorado State in 2013, is married to Montana sports information director Nic Hallisey. She is currently working toward her MBA.
JANAE VANDER PLOEG | ASSISTANT COACH
Janae Vander Ploeg is in her first season as an assistant coach at Montana, joining Allison Lawrence's staff in June 2019.
Vander Ploeg came to Montana following a standout career in the Big Sky Conference, playing for Northern Arizona from 2012-15. In Flagstaff, Vander Ploeg’s list of accolades is lengthy. She was a four-time All-Big Sky outside hitter, earning first-team recognition three times. As a senior in 2015, she was named the Big Sky’s Player of the Year, in addition to becoming the league’s first AVCA first-team all-region selection in nearly two decades. That year, she also earned an All-America honorable mention nod.
Vander Ploeg finished her stellar career ranked first in NAU history for career kills, kills average, attacks and sets played, and is fourth for digs, fifth for service aces and fifth for double-doubles. Her 569 kills in 2015 alone ranked ninth in all of NCAA Division I that year. As a senior, she was also named the Big Sky Tournament MVP after leading the Lumberjacks to a conference title and a trip to the NCAA tournament.
When her time at NAU was complete, she continued her playing career across the globe, playing two professional seasons, first in Sweden followed by a year in France.
Before getting into coaching, she worked as a fifth-grade teacher in Fort Collins, Colo., in addition to coaching at the high school and club levels. Vander Ploeg is a native of Colorado Springs, Colo.