Florida Atlantic University beach volleyball coach Capri Grotowski died Saturday after battling breast cancer for the past decade. She was 38.
Grotowski, a Lake Worth High School graduate and former volleyball standout for Northwood University, had been head coach of the Owls' beach volleyball program since 2014, often dealing with treatments for cancer. She nonetheless built FAU into a national powerhouse, ranking as high as No. 8 in national polls, and consistently finishing in the top 25.
"Capri was an incredible coach, but she was an even better person," FAU Vice President and Director of Athletics Brian White said in a statement. "We will forever be grateful for the contributions she made to FAU Athletics, building the beach volleyball program into a national contender and positively impacting the lives of our student-athletes over the past eight years."
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Added FAU president John Kelly in a statement: “The FAU family has suffered a terrible loss with the passing of Coach Grotowski. We are grateful for Capri’s service to the university and all the lives she influenced throughout her life and career.”
She is survived by her husband, FAU assistant coach Steve Grotowksi; son Cayd and daughter Kyah. Steve was a member of Britain's 2012 Olympics beach volleyball team.
The Sandy Owls had a historic 2022 season, ending the year with a record 23 wins and the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, including a first-round victory over Stanford and advancing to the Elite 8. Capri Grotowski earned Conference USA Coach of the Year honors.
In 2021, she led FAU to the highest AVCA ranking at the time (11th) and their first CCSA title. Grotowski also broke the 100-win record with a 3-2 win over North Florida on April 9. In 2020, the Owls went on a 10-game winning streak and were 11-1 before COVID-19 ended the season prematurely. Despite the abrupt end of the season, FAU ended the year with the highest rankings at the time in both DiG Magazine’s (10th) and AVCA’s (12th) final national polls.
The former Capri Hilgendorf attended Northwood University, now known as Keiser University, and was the volleyball team's MVP in all four seasons as well as a three-time All-Florida Sun Conference selection.. After being named an All-League perimeter hitter as a sophomore, she switched to a mid-blocker and earned All-League honors the next two seasons.
After finishing school in 2006, Grotowski decided to focus on beach volleyball. She played on several local tours and had numerous top-three Opens, including more than 25 career victories. In 2009, she qualified for the AVP Championship for the first time and played on the tour for the next two years. After taking a year off for the birth of her son, Grotowski returned to beach volleyball and finished in the top 10.
Grotowski also started coaching a local beach club in 2006 before founding VB Beach, a junior and adult beach volleyball training club, with her husband.
Memorial services are pending.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Capri Grotowski turned FAU Owls beach volleyball into national power