NCAA men’s volleyball is coming to Nashville.
The Nashville-based college men’s volleyball website Off the Block announced Thursday that 11 NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball teams will participate in the inaugural Grow the Game Challenge on Jan. 12-14, 2018 at Allen Arena on the campus of Lipscomb University.This will be the first time a NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball event has taken place in Nashville since men’s volleyball became a NCAA sanctioned sport in 1970.
While no college in the Nashville area has a Division I-II men’s volleyball program, the city is a central location for many of the teams in the tournament. The three-day event will serve as a way to help promote the growing sport and attract new fans.
The 11-team field for this early season non-conference tournament features Barton, Charleston, Erskine, Grand Canyon, Hawai’i, Limestone, Lincoln Memorial, Lindenwood, McKendree and North Greenville.
This Grow the Game Challenge will have the largest field for a non-conference tournament in the recent history of college men’s volleyball. The tournament also will feature teams from all five of the nation’s NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball conferences — Big West, Conference Carolinas, EIVA, MIVA and MPSF.
Four of the teams competing in this non-conference event — Hawai’i, Grand Canyon, Barton and McKendree — ended the 2017 season ranked in the national polls. In addition, both Barton and Hawai’i reached the six-team NCAA Tournament in May.
NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball is comprised of 42 schools throughout the nation. Unlike other NCAA sports, Division I and Division II programs in men’s volleyball compete for the same national championship.
The sport in recent years has experienced significant growth in non-traditional men’s volleyball areas. Schools from Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia have all added Division I-II men’s volleyball programs within the last 10 years.
One of the most recent schools to add a men’s volleyball program is Lincoln Memorial, located in Harrogate, Tennessee. The Railsplitters will compete in the Grow the Game Challenge after finishing their inaugural season in 2017 at 10-17.
All 13 matches for the Grow the Game Challenge will take place at Allen Arena. The 5,028-seat arena is home to the Lipscomb women’s volleyball team, which has reached the Division I women’s volleyball NCAA Tournament in three straight seasons.
Among the organizations to endorse this new college men’s volleyball tournament in Nashville includes USA Volleyball and MotorMVB. MotorMVB is a non-profit organization established earlier this year that is dedicated to growing boys’ and men’s volleyball throughout the United States.
Off the Block launched in 2011 and has become the nation’s leader in college men’s volleyball coverage. The national award winning website is committed to helping grow the sport of college men’s volleyball. Vinnie Lopes, the founder and editor of Off the Block, will serve as the tournament coordinator for the Grow the Game Challenge.
What they’re saying about Grow the Game Challenge
“This is going to be a fantastic celebration of volleyball and a highly competitive tournament at the start of the college men’s volleyball season. The average sports fan in Nashville probably hasn’t attended a men’s volleyball match. Once you see a match in person you are hooked. This isn’t your volleyball at a family picnic. In college men’s volleyball, the ball is fly around at 70 miles per hour, players are jumping more than 20 inches in the air to kill a ball and diving all over the court to keep a rally alive. Off the Block and our sponsors are so excited to bring this historic event to Nashville and help grow the game right here in the south.”
— Vinnie Lopes, Tournament coordinator and editor and founder of Off the Block
“On behalf of the trustees and donors of the MotorMVB Foundation we are pleased to endorse and support the Off the Block Grow the Game Challenge. Thanks to the efforts and leadership of Vinnie Lopes and to 11 collegiate D I-II teams who have decided to come together to compete in one venue during one weekend, more people will now get exposure to collegiate men’s volleyball. The mission and spirit of the Grow the Game tournament certainly is congruent with the MotorMVB Foundation’s mission to increase the number of colleges in America sponsoring men’s volleyball.”
— Wade Garard, CEO of MotorMVB Foundation
“With the emergence on the Big West conference we have a much larger portion of our schedule to fill with non-conference matches. This tournament will give us three quality neutral site matches. In addition, with 11 teams involved it will allow us an opportunity to see some other teams we have never seen, or don’t see very often. I find value in this for three reasons. One, to meet and interact with other programs for future scheduling opportunities both home and away. Two, as a member of both the AVCA All-America selection committee and as an active AVCA poll voter this event will allow me to see more quality athletes and programs in person to gain better perspective on who the top players and teams are across the country, And, lastly giving our student athletes a great educational opportunity to travel to an iconic city like Nashville will be a neat experience. I also really like the idea of helping to grow the game in a part of the country that traditionally has not seen a lot of men’s collegiate volleyball. In [the tournament coordinator Vinnie Lopes’] original email he stated this as one of the driving forces behind the event, so we are pleased to be a part of the inaugural addition.”
— Charlie Wade, Hawai’i head coach
“I am beyond stoked to have Lincoln Memorial University be a part of the Nashville men’s volleyball tournament. This will not only bring our very young team great exposure on a national scale but also our great game. We are excited to see the growth of men’s collegiate volleyball and hope that the excitement this event creates will lead to even more growth in our region.”
— Dan Danis, Lincoln Memorial head coach
“Our team this year will have a lot of young talent and a bunch of returners who will be giving us high level experience. I am excited to see our freshman group perform because we have many high level volleyball players coming in to join our team. We are really looking forward to the Off the Block tournament because it will give us the opportunity to compete at a high level against experienced teams we wouldn’t usually see.”
— Justin Burbaker, Erskine head coach
“North Greenville University is honored to participate in this groundbreaking tournament. My goal is to see men’s volleyball grow steadily in the south so this event will showcase southern teams. NGU is beginning its fourth season of play and our first senior class should be ready to compete at a little higher level.”
— Dr. Fred Battenfield, North Greenville head coach
“Grand Canyon University is excited to participate in the inaugural Off the Block tournament. The teams participating are from each of the major men’s volleyball conferences, and we are happy to represent the MPSF. Any event that can promote the sport of men’s volleyball is something special. We will have nine seniors on our roster this year that have done tremendous things for the GCU program. This tournament is new, and the guys are excited.”
— Matt Werle, Grand Canyon head coach
“We are excited to participate in the first ever Off the Block tournament. It is great to have numerous teams from all the conferences participating in one location to hopefully grow the game of men’s volleyball in a different area. The idea of bringing in many non-conference opponents allows for some great matchups early on in the season.“
— Joe Kosciw, Lindenwood head coach
“It’s really exciting for our program to have an opportunity to be involved in an event with numerous phenomenal programs. Off the Block has organized a great tournament for men’s programs around the country to showcase their team in a major metropolitan area without men’s volleyball. It’s an honor for the McKendree program to be involved in an event which the main goal is to put men’s volleyball on a national platform.”
— Nickie Sanlin, McKendree head coach
“This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of the best men’s volleyball talent in new and growing areas. We hope that the exposure for high school athletes as well as other institutions of higher learning will continue to drive the growth numbers that have been recently experienced. The tournament itself is a great opportunity for fans to experience a world class town and facilities as well as take in some amazing men’s volleyball. It is great that many of the teams have little to no experience playing each other and will certainly lead to some excitement. This event will be something you won’t want to miss.”
— Brendan Ledwith, Coordinator of Sport Development for USA Volleyball