Volleyball Club welcomes all to practices, hopes to compete


Marcy Cassidy-Mapp

Grinnell’s new Volleyball Club poses for a photo after a practice. The club was created last semester and now welcomes all students to compete.

George Kosinski, Staff Writer

Grinnell College students who wished to play competitive volleyball at a non-varsity level were out of luck until last year when a group led by Matthew Kenny `25 started a men’s club team. Now, all on campus are welcome to play after several students seeking to start a women’s volleyball club merged their organization with his.

“Volleyball Club is a new organization on campus that is open to anyone who wants to play at a more intense level than intramurals but not at the varsity level,” said co-captain Meredith Benjamin `24.

In the past, students were able to play intramurals and take the volleyball course offered by the athletic department. However, these settings did not necessarily offer the intensity or competition that some players sought, and with intramurals being discontinued this year, many felt the need for a new club on campus.

“Last year there was not an option for women to play club volleyball at Grinnell,” said co-captain Liz Neace `24. “At the beginning of this year, I and a few other people wanted to start a women’s club. We wanted to create a space for women on campus who were interested and wanted to play.”

Neace said that she and her co-captains were tabling next to Kenny’s at the student organization fair. Since the men’s club was already looking to become gender-neutral, they decided to combine into a single club.

“It was a little rocky at first, just since we weren’t originally planning to merge,” Neace said, adding that things are going much smoother now. “We’re one big club, which is awesome. We debrief after each practice, decide on what drills to do the next day and play it by ear. There’s nothing really to fumble — we just get together and play.”

Practices, which currently happen twice a week, consist of an hour of drills and exercises followed by an hour of playing actual games. There is a focus on improving fundamental volleyball skills, as many members of the club are relatively new to the game.

“I’d say a handful of players have background experience and knowledge,” Neace said. Some, including her and Benjamin, played volleyball at a high level in high school. Neace said that people who take the volleyball physical education course do come to club meetings. However, many members are also entirely new to the sport. “There’s not really any crossover between our club and the varsity team,” she said.

“There are a lot of new players, but they make drastic improvements every single practice, and our level of play is getting better every day,” Benjamin said. Since the club is not a varsity sport, there is no official coach. Instead, leaders and other players with experience have taken that responsibility.

“Because the club is open to everyone, we have found ourselves in more coaching roles which has been really exciting and fun but not exactly what we anticipated,” Benjamin said. “That has really helped everyone get better.” Neace described coaching as a collective effort between the more experienced players.

Both Neace and Benjamin said that they are happy about the consistent numbers that the club has been able to attract, with an average attendance of over 20 people each practice. With the fall semester in full swing, the co-captains are now especially focused on creating more opportunities for the club to compete.

At this point, Benjamin said that the club team is still figuring out the competition. “We’re hoping that by the end of this semester we’ll play in at least one tournament, and then definitely by next semester either start going to adult tournaments or play against other club teams at colleges like Macalester or Carleton.”

“I’m not sure how realistic it is this term since we just started,” Neace said, “but we do want to be able to compete with other schools by next semester and in the years to come.”

Benjamin cited Grinnell’s highly successful ultimate frisbee team, which is also not a varsity sport, as a model for what she hopes the team can become in the future as the organization continues to develop. She pointed out that the organization needs to research more about the opportunities for gender-neutral volleyball competition. “At schools like [Grinnell], there is usually only a women’s varsity team, so there’s often just a men’s club team. We’re in the process of figuring out how that will affect our ability to compete,” she said.

Led by co-captains Benjamin, Neace, Kenny, David Stefanoff `24 and Ellen Hengesbach `24, Volleyball Club meets every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the auxiliary gymnasium at the Bear Athletic Center.

“Everyone is welcome to come practice,” Neace said. “We have people who show up for an hour and then leave, and we have people who come every single day. I think it’s a very welcoming atmosphere.”