Charlotte Richards makes an impression on the volleyball court, off it

by | Oct 1, 2021

Richards is the reigning Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Year and will earn her degree in supply chain management in December.
Charlotte Richards in the Quad

Charlotte Richards is the reigning Great Lakes Valley Conference Volleyball Player of the Year and a star student majoring in supply chain management. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Charlotte Richards was back flying through the air at the Mark Twain Athletic Center last weekend and pounding volleyballs into Chuck Smith Court with her powerful right arm.

Richards, the reigning Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Year, registered 33 kills combined from her outside hitter position as the University of Missouri–St. Louis volleyball team dispatched Rockhurst and William Jewell on back-to-back days to improve to 9-3 on the season. She now has a conference-leading 219 kills for the Tritons, who have won six straight matches.

The weekend performance is exactly what UMSL Coach Ryan Young has come to expect from Richards, a senior from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Charlotte Richards spiking the ball against Rockhurst

Senior outside hitter Charlotte Richards has led the Tritons to a 9-3 start this season, and the team has goals of contending for a conference title and a deep NCAA Tournament run. (Photo courtesy of UMSL Athletics)

“From an attacking standpoint, she sees the court extremely well,” Young said. “She has a very powerful arm swing, but she can mix up different attacking shots, and her vision with the block and the defense is really what sets her apart. She can see the open spot. Some kids aren’t as comfortable hitting certain balls, but she can hit it up the line or across or down the seam.”

Richards is the focal point of the Tritons’ attack and a major reason Young and his players believe they can contend for the Great Lakes Valley Conference championship and make a deep run in the NCAA Division II Volleyball Tournament.

But Richards’ skills as a volleyball player are only part of what makes her stand out. A supply chain management major and member of the Pierre Laclede Honors College, Richards also has been named Academic All-GLVC three times and last season was selected as a second-team Academic All-American.

This summer, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals St. Louis Roundtable awarded Richards its John Grant Helm Memorial Scholarship. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a student focusing on a supply chain curriculum at a local university who exhibits leadership qualities, community engagement and academic achievement.

“If she was not a student-athlete, if she was just a student, we’d still be going, ‘Wow, this is one of the best students that we’ve had come through our program,’” said Mitch Millstein, an professional practice professor in the Department of Supply Chain and Analytics.

‘A perfect fit’

Richards followed her older sister, Madsy, to the UMSL volleyball program and eventually into supply chain and analytics.

Madsy Richards had transferred from Kirkwood Community College as a defensive specialist the summer before Charlotte’s senior year. The family connection no doubt gave Young an edge in recruiting her from Xavier High School, and she quickly established a rapport with him and liked his coaching style.

Charlotte Richards sitting with computer in the Quad

Charlotte Richards received the John Grant Helm Memorial Scholarship from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals St. Louis Roundtable. (Photo by August Jennewein)

She also found plenty to like about the university, including its location.

“I liked the idea of being in a bigger city with a little more activity and things to do,” Richards said. “It was in a perfect location where I could still drive home on the weekend if I had free time. Honestly, St. Louis has been the perfect fit with the perfect blend of activities to do throughout town.”

Richards wasn’t sure what educational path she wanted to pursue when she enrolled as a freshman, but UMSL provided her enough space to try out different options. She started out studying criminology and criminal justice her first semester before switching to the College of Business Administration.

Once there, she took courses in marketing, finance, accounting and management before ultimately landing on supply chain and analytics – just like her older sister.

“It’s the perfect blend of numbers and problem-solving and being able to interact with different people,” Richards said. “I love it, and I would never choose anything else.”

Richards has received strong support from faculty members such as Assistant Teaching Professor Maureen Karig, who teaches Introduction to Supply Chain Management and serves as the faculty liaison for the Supply Chain and Transportation Club.

The same is true of Millstein, who, along with his wife, sponsors a $2,000 scholarship each year for a supply chain student. Richards received it before her junior year.

“She sent a nice note – ‘Thank you, Mr. And Mrs. Millstein …’” Millstein said. “I emailed her back and said my wife and I like to meet our scholarship recipients. This was during the pandemic – during the height of the pandemic – so, of course, it was done virtually.”

They spoke over Zoom about Richards and what she was hoping to do after college, and Millstein, who owns a consulting business, gave her some advice about supply chain careers.

Committed to success

It wasn’t until last spring when Richards enrolled in his supply chain practicum course that Millstein got to see how intelligent and driven she was in a classroom setting. She did A-level work throughout the semester but still went out of her way to complete every extra credit assignment he offered his students.

Charlotte Richards spiking the ball against Southern Indiana

Charlotte Richards’ powerful right arm and excellent court vision helped her average a GLVC-leading 4.35 kills per set as a junior while helping UMSL to a 16-3 record. (Photo courtesy of UMSL Athletics)

Richards did so even though she was in the middle of her sensational junior volleyball season – a season moved to the spring semester because of the pandemic. She led the Tritons to a 16-3 record and paced the GLVC with an average of 4.35 kills and 4.81 points per set, earning her second straight All-GLVC first-team recognition and being chosen the player of the year.

“You never recruit a kid, and you’re like, ‘This kid’s going to be player of the year,’” Young said. “You like to hope that, but coaches stay realistic. You just don’t know how much extra work they’re going to put in, and she’s put in a lot of work over the years. She obviously had the natural ability, but she puts 100% effort into everything she does.”

Richards, who had earned second-team All-American honors as a sophomore as part of a three-headed attack that included then-senior outside hitters Selena Nolte and Kylie Rudsinski, credited her teammates – particularly setter Kaileen Herman and libero Megan Woll – for helping her handle the extra attention she received from opponents as a junior and putting her in position to succeed.

“All the success that I’ve been able to see through athletics on the volleyball court has been because of my teammates,” Richards said. “Their support has just been amazing throughout the past four years. Whether it’s during games or making me better in practices, I couldn’t have done it without their help.”

This fall marks Richards’ third season playing alongside Herman and Woll, and their familiarity and trust on the court provide them with a sense of confidence and calm Richards believes will help them as they chase after a conference championship and move into the postseason.

A real bright future

Richards is on track to graduate with her BSBA in December and already has a strong resume after working as an intern the past three summers at Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, with a manufacturing facility in Cedar Rapids.

Millstein believes future employers should feel fortunate to hire her.

“We’re all interested in seeing where her career takes her,” he said. “For us, that’s the great part of the job, right? ‘Where’s she going to be in five years or 10 years? A director or vice president?’ She’s going to go places really fast, and hopefully, with one of our advisory board companies if they’re lucky enough to land her.”

But Richards won’t be joining the workforce just yet.

With the pandemic upending schedules last season and canceling national championship tournaments, including in volleyball, the NCAA awarded student-athletes an additional year of eligibility. Richards has decided to take advantage of it by dual-enrolling in the Master of Science in Supply Chain Analytics program.

She’s started taking graduate-level courses this semester while completing her bachelor’s requirements and will continue working toward her master’s through next season.

That was welcome news to Young.

“Filling her shoes next year or whenever she leaves is going to be a challenge,” Young said. “But knowing that she’ll be around next year gives me an extra year to recruit and try to piece together some replacements for her. We’re excited to have her, and it’s great situation. She’s getting help paying for grad school, and she’s setting herself up for a real bright future. That’s for sure.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik