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Green Knights Net SNC’s 23rd Varsity Sport

Coach B.J. BryantExpect to see more tall male students on campus in the fall of 2019. Men’s volleyball will open in the spring of 2020 as the 12th men’s varsity sport at St. Norbert College. B.J. Bryant (left), who was named the head coach of the men’s program in May of 2018, is busy working to build a roster.

“Twelve players this first season is realistic,” says Bryant, who in the fall completed his fourth season as the head coach of the St. Norbert women’s volleyball team – a role in which he continues. “We ideally would like to get to 14 or 15 players moving forward.”

Recent recruiting trips for Bryant included Southern California, Chicago and St. Louis. He is open to finding players from all over the country, transfer students and some who may already be on campus.

“I’ve been working with Coach [Dan] McCarty to see if we have any dual-sport kids who possibly would play both football and volleyball. Maybe a cross-country athlete is going to play volleyball. I’m working with Coach [Don] Augustine there. The department has been very helpful to me with athletes who may have an interest.”

None of the other Midwest Conference colleges and universities currently offers men’s volleyball. The Green Knights will be an affiliate of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC), which includes Lakeland, Marian, Concordia and Milwaukee School of Engineering in Wisconsin, and Aurora, Benedictine, Illinois Tech, Concordia Chicago and Dominican in Illinois. Most teams in the conference have size, so recruiting some length is important, says Bryant.

“I’m 6'2" and I’m walking around looking up to players. Many of these teams have 6'7", 6'8" players. I know we are doing well if our roster is significantly bigger [in height] than Coach [GaryGrzesk’s [basketball] roster,” he says with a laugh.

The first home conference match will be March 3, 2020, when the Green Knights face Lakeland. The nonconference schedule is still to be determined, so the team may open at home sooner. Practice will officially open in January 2020, but NACC rules allow the team to practice for a period of time first semester, and to schedule scrimmages.

“The opportunity to do a fall season, a non-traditional season, will really help us,” says Bryant. “That way in March we won’t be stepping on the court for a match as a team for the first time.”

What are the expectations for the inaugural season?

“We want to play good competition, be competitive and make things difficult on our opponents,” says Bryant.

Bryant hopes that the men can quickly build a fan base: “How do we assimilate into the student body and find our niche? I think people here will like it and create a fun environment,” he says.

He hopes the first group of players embraces the chance to set the foundation for the program.

“These young men have to have the mindset that they are going to be starting something,” says Bryant, who once served as the head boys’ volleyball coach at Neenah (Wis.) High School and coached boys at the club level. “They are laying the groundwork for what comes ahead. They are not chasing records. They are going to put down the footprints that others are going to follow. For some guys, that’s a really cool opportunity. It’s exciting to build a program from the ground up.”

Tall story
Men’s and women’s volleyball are similar from a technique standpoint, says B.J. Bryant, who coaches both teams at St. Norbert College. The difference in play is the power on the men’s side.

“In general, the rallies tend to be a little bit shorter because of the height at which the men are playing and the speed and velocity at which they are serving and attacking,” explains Bryant. “When the game is played at a high level and you add that physicality, just the jump heights and the level above the net at which the men are playing, it’s a pretty fast-paced and exciting sport.”

March 17, 2019