Tournament preview notes: 2019 Grow the Game Challenge

The Off the Block Grow the Game Challenge presented by MotorMVB will take place Friday though Sunday at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee.

This is the nation’s largest regular season non-conference tournament with a 10-team tournament field. The 2019 Grow the Game Challenge also marks the second time that the Nashville area has played host to a NCAA men’s volleyball event.

Check out the tournament notes for the Grow the Game Challenge.

Tournament schedule | About the event | Determining a champion |
Tickets & Follow live | Men’s volleyball in Tennessee |
Series history | Team-by-Team preview

Tournament schedule

FRIDAY MATCHES

Time Match Follow live Tickets
12:30 p.m. Lindenwood vs. Limestone Stats | Video Order
3 p.m. Grand Canyon vs. Barton Stats | Video Order
5:30 p.m. Cumberland vs. Bluefield
Battle for the Scoopz Grand Cannoli
Stats | Video Order
8 p.m. USC vs. Lincoln Memorial
Battle of the AVCA Spotlight
Stats | Video Order

SATURDAY MATCHES

Time Match Follow live Tickets
10 a.m. Bluefield vs. Fontbonne Stats | Video Order
12:30 p.m. Lincoln Memorial vs. Limestone
Battle of the Sammy B’s Biscuit Bar
Stats | Video Order
3 p.m. Cumberland vs. Fontbonne
Battle for The Cox Team House Keys
Stats | Video Order
5:30 p.m. USC vs. Barton Stats | Video Order
8 p.m. Grand Canyon vs. Lindenwood
Clash of the Nashville Thai Massage Twisted Knot
Stats | Video Order

SUNDAY MATCHES

Time Match Follow live Tickets
10 a.m. Limestone vs. Quincy Stats | Video Order
12:30 p.m. Grand Canyon vs. Lincoln Memorial Stats | Video Order
3 p.m. Barton vs. Quincy
Battle for the Molten Golden Volleyball
Stats | Video Order
5:30 p.m. USC vs. Lindenwood
Battle for the Tall Slim Tees V-Neck
Stats | Video Order

All times are CST and all matches will be played the Dallas Floyd Phoenix Arena

What About Us

About the Grow the Game Challenge
The Grow the Game Challenge operates as a non-profit organization and is based in Nashville. The organization is committed to helping promote the growth of college men’s volleyball throughout the United States by coordinating regular season tournaments in areas of the nation that do not have NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball teams. This will be the second Grow the Game Challenge event. The inaugural Grow the Game Challenge tournament took place in Nashville at Lipscomb University in January 2018.

About Cumberland University
Cumberland University is a private liberal arts university that was founded in 1842 and is located about 25 miles east of Nashville. The school has about 2,400 students and its enrollment has increased about 50 precent in the last three years. Cumberland athletics is a member of the NAIA and fields 20 teams.

About Off the Block
Off the Block launched in 2011 and has become the nation’s leader in college men’s volleyball coverage. The national award winning website (offtheblockblog.com) is based out of Nashville and 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’s executive director.

About college men’s volleyball
Volleyball is one of the fastest growing male sports at the college level. While there are not as many colleges that sponsor women’s volleyball, there has been a dramatic expansion this decade with new college men’s volleyball teams throughout the nation.

There are now 43 NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball teams (unlike other NCAA sports, Division I and Division II teams compete for the same national championship). In addition, more than 10 schools on the East Coast and Southeast have started a men’s volleyball team within the last 10 years.

Along with NCAA Division I-II, there are more than 75 NCAA Division III men’s volleyball programs and more than 40 teams at the NAIA level.

Determining a Grow the Game Challenge Champion

The Grow the Game Challenge has a set match schedule and will not be a traditional round-robin or bracket style tournament. However, that will not prevent there being an overall tournament champion.

The 2019 Grow the Game Challenge will have two divisions that are based on each school’s NCAA and NAIA affiliation.Each division at the Grow the Game Challenge will have its own tournament champion.

The team in each division with the best winning percentage at the tournament will be the Grow the Game Challenge champions. In the event of a tie, the following tiebreakers will be used in this order: set winning percentage and then, if still tied, point differential.

Attending and following the tournament online

Tickets for tournament
General admission tickets for the Grow the Game Challenge will be $8 for a day pass and $20 for a tournament pass. Tickets can be purchased on gameday at the Dallas Floyd Phoenix Arena. In addition, tickets can be purchased in advance on the Grow the Game Challenge website (offtheblockblog.com/growthegame) and through its online ticket shop (grow-the-game-challenge.myshopify.com).

All ticket sales will go to fund the Grow the Game Challenge. Fans who are unable to attend the tournament but still want to support the Grow the Grow Game Challenge can do so by selecting the option at the online ticket shop to purchase a ticket that will be donated to the local Lebanon community.

Follow live
Tournament central: Click here
Live stats: Click here
Live video: Click here
*Fan can view the live video of Grow the Game Challenge matches for a fee of $8 for a day pass and $20 for a tournament pass. All online video sales will go to fund the Grow the Game Challenge.

Social media
Twitter: @offtheblock11
Instagram: @offtheblock11
Facebook: Off the Block

Men’s volleyball in Tennessee

College men’s volleyball on the rise
Cumberland became the first college in Middle Tennessee to sponsor men’s volleyball. The NAIA program will play its inaugural season in 2019.

While no Nashville area college has a NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball program, two universities in Tennessee have added men’s volleyball this decade.

King University in 2011 became the first Division I-II college from Tennessee to sponsor the sport. The Tornado finished last season reaching the seven-team NCAA Tournament for the first time program history.

Lincoln Memorial University added its men’s volleyball team in 2017 and as a second-year program won the IVA Tournament last season. In addition, Tusculum University will start a men’s volleyball program in 2020.

Tennesseans in the Grow the Game Challenge
While Tennessee is not a traditional volleyball hotbed, it has produced numerous college players in recent years. Below are all the players from Tennessee who will be participating in the Grow the Game Challenge:

Cumberland University
Brian Hogg (Hermitage)
Stephan Davis (Spring Hill)
Brandon Coons (Lafayette)
Mason Chambers (Lebanon)
Christian Lester (Murfreesboro)

Lincoln Memorial University
Jacob Titus (Hendersonville)

Series history of Grow the Game Challenge match-ups

Lindenwood vs. Limestone
Lindenwood leads series 5-0
(last meeting in 2015)

Grand Canyon vs. Barton
Grand Canyon leads series 5-0
(last meeting in 2018)

Cumberland vs. Bluefield College
First all-time meeting

USC vs. Lincoln Memorial
First all-time meeting

Bluefield vs. Fontbonne
First all-time meeting

Lincoln Memorial vs. Limestone
Lincoln Memorial leads series 1-0
(last meeting in 2017)

Cumberland vs. Fontbonne
First all-time meeting

USC vs. Barton
First all-time meeting

Grand Canyon vs. Lindenwood
Grand Canyon leads series 8-7
(last meeting in 2018)

Limestone vs. Quincy
Series tied at 2-2
(last meeting in 2014)

Grand Canyon vs. Lincoln Memorial
First all-time meeting

Barton vs. Quincy
Quincy leads series 2-0
(last meeting in 2014)

USC vs. Lindenwood
USC leads series 1-0
(last meeting in 2015)

Team-by-Team Preview

BARTON COLLEGE
School’s location: Wilson, North Carolina
Division: NCAA Division I-II
Conference: Conference Carolinas (ConfCarolinas)
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: Two (2018, 2019)
Season record: 0-2
Early season recap: Barton enters the Grow the Game Challenge following a three-game home loss to the defending NCAA champions No. 1 Long Beach State. In addition, the Bulldogs were projected to win the ConfCarolinas and reach the NCAA Tournament in the ConfCarolinas preseason coaches poll that was released earlier this month.
2018 record: 21-8
2018 season recap: Barton won a share of the ConfCarolinas regular season title and advanced to the conference tournament finals. In addition, the Bulldogs are a year removed from winning their first conference title in program history and advancing to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Player to watch: Opposite Angelos Mandilaris returns for his junior season after being named the 2018 ConfCarolinas Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Division II National Player of the Year. Mandilaris, one of four all-conference starters returning for the Bulldogs, was fifth in the nation last season with a 3.97 kills per game average.

BLUEFIELD COLLEGE
School’s location: Bluefield, Virginia
Division: NAIA
Conference: Mid-South Conference
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: One (2019)
Season record: 0-0
Early season recap: Bluefield will play Lees-McRae in its season opener on Tuesday before traveling to the Grow the Game Challenge.
2018 record: 7-18
2018 season recap: The Rams opened last season ending their 23-match losing streak and finished with a single-season record for wins in the program’s four-year history. In addition, Bluefield upset Belmont Abbey in March for the school’s first win all-time against a NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball team.
Player to watch: Outside attacker Alberto Chiaparini earned all-conference honors after finishing last season in the national top 20 of the NAIA with a 3.38 kills per game average.

CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY
School’s location: Lebanon, Tennessee
Division: NAIA
Conference: Mid-South Conference
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: One (2019)
Season record: 0-0
Early season recap: Cumberland will play its program’s inaugural match at the Grow the Game Challenge.
2018 record: N/A
2018 season recap: Cumberland named Scott Barbe the program’s inaugural head coach in November 2017. Barbe has spent the last 14 months recruiting and signed 15 players for the program’s first season in 2019.

FONTBONNE UNIVERSITY
School’s location: St. Louis
Division: NCAA Division III
Conference: Midwest Collegiate Volleyball League (MCVL)
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: One (2019)
Season record: 0-0
Early season recap: The Griffins will open their 2019 season at the Grow the Game Challenge. Fontbonne was picked to finish the MCVL in sixth place in the conference’s preseason coaches poll. This will be Fontbonne’s first season with Ryan LeGrand as the head coach. LeGrand was promoted in the offseason after spending the last seven years as the team’s assistant coach.
2018 record: 19-8
2018 season recap: Fontbonne set a program-record with 19 wins last season and finished in fifth place in the MCVL. It also was the third consecutive year that the Griffins under former coach Mike Haston won at least 15 matches.
Player to watch: Libero Zach Rothstein set the school’s single-season record with 331 digs last season and was named both a first-team all-conference selection and the MCVL Defensive Player of the Year. Rothstein is one of five starters returning for Fontbonne in 2019.

GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY
School’s location: Phoenix, Arizona
Division: NCAA Division I-II
Conference: Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF)
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: Two (2018, 2019)
Season record: 3-2
Early season recap: Grand Canyon is on a three-match winning streak, including a five-game victory against No. 11 CSUN on Jan. 5. Freshman outside attacker Christian Janke also leads the Antelopes with a 3.47 kills per game average.
2018 record: 18-11
2018 season recap: Grand Canyon finished last season at No. 14 in the national coaches poll and for the first time its program history was nationally ranked every week during the season. In addition, the Antelopes advanced to the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals.
Player to watch: Middle attacker Caleb Blazer was in the MPSF’s top 10 last season with a 0.97 blocks per game average. He also had a combined nine blocks in the Antelopes’ three matches last season at the Grow the Game Challenge.

LIMESTONE COLLEGE
School’s location: Gaffney, South Carolina
Division: NCAA Division I-II
Conference: Conference Carolinas (ConfCarolinas)
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: Two (2018, 2019)
Season record: 0-0
Early season recap: Limestone will open its season at the Grow the Game Challenge. The Saints were picked to finish the ConfCarolinas in fifth place in the conference’s preseason coaches poll that was released earlier this month.
2018 record: 8-20
2018 season recap: Limestone during its first season under coach Steve Benson had a roster primarily comprised of freshmen and finished 2018 in sixth place in the ConfCarolinas. The Saints also advanced to the conference tournament quarterfinals.
Player to watch: Opposite Francisco Salinger Cenzual. Cenzual was fourth in the ConfCarolinas with a 2.82 kills per game average and was named the 2018 ConfCarolinas Freshman of the Year.

LINCOLN MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY
School’s location: Harrogate, Tennessee
Division: NCAA Division I-II
Conference: Independent
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: Two (2018, 2019)
Season record: 3-0
Early season recap: The defending IVA champions Lincoln Memorial opened its season with home victories against Campbellsville, Belmont Abbey and Mount Olive. Opposite Evan Cory had both match-high 15 kills and six aces in the victory against Belmont Abbey.
2018 record: 14-12
2018 season recap: The Railsplitters in their program’s second year finished with a winning record and won the IVA Tournament, a championship event for NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball teams without a conference affiliation. Lincoln Memorial also had three players earn All-IVA honors.
Player to watch: Cory was among the national leaders with a 3.51 kills per game average, including having a career-high 26 kills as Lincoln Memorial beat Coker in the IVA Tournament finals.

LINDENWOOD UNIVERSITY
School’s location: St. Charles, Missouri
Division: NCAA Division I-II
Conference: Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA)
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: Two (2018, 2019)
Season record: 0-2
Early season recap: Lindenwood opened the season with losses to No. 2/2 UCLA and Charleston during the weekend. Sophomore opposite Charley Hlavin had a team-high 26 combined kills in the two matches, including a match-high 12 kills on a .417 attack percentage in the loss to UCLA.
2018 record: 9-16
2018 season recap: Lindenwood swept Erskine, North Greenville and Barton at the inaugural Grow the Game Challenge to win the 2018 tournament championship. The Lions ended last season ranked No. 5 in the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Division II National Coaches Poll and advanced to the MIVA Tournament quarterfinals.
Player to watch: Setter Adam Brewster finished the 2018 season in the nation’s top 15 with a 9.78 assists per game average. The All-MIVA selection also was among the conference leaders with a 1.66 digs per game average.

QUINCY UNIVERSITY
School’s location: Quincy, Illinois
Division: NCAA Division I-II
Conference: Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA)
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: One (2019)
Season record: Quincy will open its season this week with matches against Culver-Stockton and Park before traveling to the Grow the Game Challenge. The Hawks were picked to finish the MIVA in eighth place in the conference’s preseason coaches poll.
2018 record: 12-19
2018 season recap: Despite finishing last season winless in MIVA play, the Hawks under first-year head coach Gavin Mueller went 12-4 in non-conference play. The team’s non-conference scheduled was highlighted with a five-game victory against Lincoln Memorial.
Player to watch: Middle attacker Blake Sprecher as a sophomore last season led Quincy and was in the top 15 of the MIVA with 75 blocks.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
School’s location: Los Angeles
Division: NCAA Division I-II
Conference: Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF)
Grow the Game Challenge appearances: One (2019)
Season record: 2-1
Early season recap: USC opened its season with victories against Concordia-Irvine and NJIT before losing to No. 4/4 Hawai’i in the de-facto championship match of the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Warrior Classic. Outside attacker Gianluca Grasso had a team-high 10 kills against Hawai’i and was named to the All-Tournament Team.
2018 record: 8-20
2018 season recap: USC finished last season in sixth place in the MPSF and upset No. 5 Pepperdine in the conference tournament quarterfinals. It also pulled off an upset in the final weeks of the regular season against its cross-town rivals No. 3 UCLA.
Player to watch: Middle attacker Sam Lewis, a MPSF All-Freshman selection last season, was in the conference’s top 10 with a .334 attack percentage. The 6-foot-10 incoming sophomore also is spending this offseason playing with the U.S. Men’s Junior National Team.