He arrived in Corvallis to take over a program that was devastated amid allegations of emotional abuse under former coach LaVonda Wagner. The roster was so barren, Rueck held open tryouts. His first game, the squad included two returners, three freshmen, three walk-ons, a soccer player and a volleyball player.
That was the fall of 2010. Tonight, Oregon State (24-10) will play for a spot in the Sweet 16 when the ninth-seeded Beavers face No. 1 seed South Carolina.
“I don’t think there’s any way you could have predicted that we would be here right now. I wouldn’t have,” Rueck said Monday. “I thought best-case scenario would be year five or six.”
Both South Carolina (28-4) and Oregon State have undergone massive makeovers under their current coaches. Dawn Staley has elevated the Gamecocks to the elite of the Southeastern Conference, with the school earning its first No. 1 seed this season.
After 14 seasons at Division III George Fox, Rueck was tasked with rebuilding a crumbling program. The school seriously considered shelving the program for one season in an attempt to rebuild the foundation.
Rueck forged ahead during a challenging first season in 2011, leading the Beavers to a 9-21 record. The first breakthrough came a season later, when Oregon State was 20-13 and was selected for the Women’s NIT.
The Beavers’ NCAA Tournament history is so limited that the box scores take up only two pages in the team’s game notes and include the hand written boxes from Oregon State’s first two trips in 1983 and 1984.
“I believed in it. I believed that (Rueck) would recruit the right people that could get the job done and here we are,” Wiese said.