What coaches, officials are saying about 2019 Grow the Game Challenge

Photo by Jay Sowers

Almost five months before the 2019 Grow the Game Challenge and the volleyball community is already starting to annual non-conference tournament.

Check out what coaches, athletics directors and tournament officials had to say about participating in the event that will take place Jan. 18-20 at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Vinnie Lopes, Grow the Game Challenge Executive Director

Vinnie Lopes presents the 2018 Grow the Game Challenge championship trophy to Lindenwood in January. Photo by Jay Sowers

“We have an outstanding tournament field and a fantastic host site. This has all the makings to be an epic weekend in January for the volleyball community and the Wilson County community. Not many people in Nashville may be familiar with college men’s volleyball, but it is definitely one of the most intense sports to experience in person. This isn’t volleyball at a family picnic. College men’s volleyball has everything from the ball traveling more than 70 miles per hour and players jumping more than 20 inches in the air to bodies diving all over the court to keep a rally alive. We are pumped to have the Grow the Game Challenge at Cumberland University and can’t wait for the start of this tournament.”

Ron Pavan, Cumberland athletics director

“The Grow the Game Challenge is a tremendous event to publicize men’s volleyball in an area of the country that has had little exposure to the sport. It’s an incredible honor for Cumberland University to host the event with some of the best Division I and Division II teams in the nation descending on our campus for three days.”

Jeff Nygaard, USC head coach

Photo courtesy of USC athletics and John McGillen

“We are grateful to the Grow the Game Challenge organization for this opportunity to compete in Nashville. We look forward to getting to compete early with top level teams as we embark into the 2018-2019 season. This competition will give us a great chance to showcase how our team is progressing towards our collective goals.”

Scott Barbe, Cumberland head coach

“As a first-year program we are very honored to host for the Grow The Game Challenge. We are one of the few universities that has a men’s volleyball program in the state of Tennessee and with this opportunity, it will help us promote the sport of men’s volleyball. The men’s volleyball team at Cumberland University hopes to develop and encourage the sport of volleyball for all young men in the Nashville area and throughout the entire state of Tennessee. We are delighted and thrilled to be apart of this great event.”

Steve Benson, Limestone head coach

Photo by Jay Sowers

“We are excited to return to the Grow the Game Challenge. Coming to the inaugural event last season and seeing the teams that attended, it was easy to return to Nashville. OTB is becoming a leader in promoting men’s collegiate volleyball in the US. Vinnie [Lopes] at OTB does a great job creating an event that elevates the game of men’s volleyball in an area where it’s not present. We are excited to return and help grow the game.”

Mike Haston, Fontbonne head coach

Photo courtesy of Fontbonne athletics

“I am really excited about the 2019 season. We are returning five of six starters, and I am really looking forward to seeing what our seniors can accomplish in their final season. Furthermore, as we look to repeat as the No. 1 defense in NCAA D3 it will be really important to play some solid opponents early in the season. Outside of actually competing in the GTGC, we are all very excited to watch the other teams in this deep field of opponents. Personally, I am really excited to be able to come back to the great state of Tennessee.

Jeff Lennox, Barton head coach

Photo by Jay Sowers

“It was a great experience for our team, the fans and the city so it was easy for us to decide to come back. Especially with the level of competition at the event, it will be a huge test for our team to see how we stack up against some of the best teams in the nation. We have a lot of experience returning so I know we will be ready and prepared for the challenge. Excited to be a part of year two at the Grow the Game get men’s volleyball in front of more fans.”

Matt Werle, Grand Canyon head coach

Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon athletics

“We are excited to return to Nashville for the second straight year. Not only is Nashville a great city, but this is a wonderful tournament to be a part of with teams from all over the country. We will be inexperienced, but dynamic and fun to watch. We look forward to competing in the Grow the Game Challenge.”

John Cash, Lincoln Memorial head coach

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Memorial athletics

“It is an honor to participate in the Grow the Game Challenge at Cumberland University in our home state. It is a wonderful experience for all participants, fans, and families and is held in one of the best areas in the U.S. This a fantastic opportunity to expose the great strides the wonderful state of Tennessee has made in the growth of the game. The team, which returns nine and brings in eight, is excited for the upcoming season and we look forward to all the excitement the 2019 season will bring.”

Joe Kosciw, Lindenwood head coach

Photo courtesy of Lindenwood athletics

“I think we had a solid year getting our foundation and culture established, so I cannot wait to see our guys get to work. I know they are hungry to keep improving and looking forward to building off of last year’s accomplishments. As far as being able to participate in the Grow the Game Challenge, we are glad to be back and look forward to another fun three days of competition.”

Ray Vance, Bluefield head coach

“Bluefield is coming off of a very solid first season and looking to continue to grow. We have five key returning players including all-conference team outside hitter Alberto Chiaparini and four seniors. We have a strong recruiting class including several impact players both nationally and internationally. We will continue to be one of the most diverse teams in the country. Participating in the Growing the Game Challenge is an amazing honor. Being able to show players of all levels that there are opportunities to play after high school is a major component is the growth of men’s volleyball in both showing those opportunities and developing young men to become coaches in their own right. It’s a blessing to be part of such a great event with such great coaches and players and those who are committed to helping to grow the game that has provided so much for us all.