Excitement Growing for Men’s Volleyball Program
July 4, 2012
Keuka College is an institution that prides itself on offering its students unique and potentially life-altering experiences, whether in the classroom, on the playing fields or through the college’s nationally-renowned Field Period program.
While Keuka’s intercollegiate athletics program has always featured strong women’s teams, the Storm has spent the last decade bolstering its men’s teams, too. Beginning this fall the school will add another unique option when men’s volleyball becomes the 16th intercollegiate varsity sports offering on campus.
Keuka — which features an established women’s volleyball program that advanced into the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) semifinals in 2011 — becomes one of only a handful of Division III institutions in the area to offer men’s volleyball and will compete in the NEAC.
Ben Guiliano, who also runs the women’s program, will oversee the men’s program and has plenty of prior experience building a program from the ground up. This will be the third time Guiliano has started a men’s volleyball program after prior stints at Genesee Community College (1986) and Pfeiffer (NC) University (2005).
“There are always going to be some growing pains when starting a program, but recruiting is the key and we’re just going to need time to get to where we want to go with the program,” said Guiliano, who has won more than 560 collegiate men’s and women’s volleyball matches between stints at Keuka, Pfeiffer, GCC, Creighton University, St. Andrews Presbyterian College and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“You can’t just get a bunch of student-athletes, throw them together and play well and win right away. We’re going after players who can play at any level. The chance to take a program from absolutely nothing into a competitive program, to be a starter right away and be an impact player off the bat, that means something to them and those are the kind of student-athletes we’re going to get here.”
The men already have two committed student-athletes on campus, freshmen Ryan Kelly (Clifton Springs, NY/Midlakes) and Krystian Lucey (Northwood, NH/Coe Brown Northwood Academy). Guiliano has been actively scouting the region for talented student-athletes who have the drive, dedication and motivation to be a part of this historic inaugural class of men’s volleyball, and hopes to have a roster of 10 to 12 student-athletes for the 2012-13 season, and up to 14 going forward.
“When I heard we were stating a men’s volleyball program, I thought it was a great idea,” said Kelly, who played on some talented Midlakes squads under Kyle Salisbury, who also is an assistant coach for the Nazareth College men’s squad.
“This has given me another chance to play competitive volleyball again, which is pretty sweet. Being a part of this from the beginning will be special.”
Among the schools Keuka will face in conference play: SUNYIT, Lancaster Bible College, Cazenovia College, Wells College and Gallaudet University. If the NEAC reaches seven teams, the conference will eventually have an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III tournament, which annually features talented schools such as defending national champion Nazareth, Juanita College and Springfield (Mass.) College.
Nationally, there are between 80 and 90 institutions offering men’s volleyball, with most of those colleges located in the northeast portion of the country.
Men’s volleyball has been growing at the high school level for some time, with New York State adding a sanctioned boys volleyball state championship for the 2010 season.
But while the numbers of teams and players are growing at the high school level, Kelly said he and many of his teammates were disappointed when the high school season ended because they thought their playing days were over.
“I think a lot of the talented high school players still want to play at the college level, but at bigger programs like Nazareth, they will have a tougher time getting on the court,” said Kelly, a business management major who is looking forward to facing his older brother Erin when the Storm and Medaille play in the winter.
“With a new program they’ll have more of a chance to make the team and play, which could be appealing. We need a lot of time and dedication from our players and we’ll be facing teams that have played together for 3-4 years who know how to play as a team, so our ability to bond as a team will be key.”
Guiliano is adamant that being among a select number of area college’s offering men’s volleyball can benefit Keuka in the recruiting process. The veteran coach said that because men’s volleyball isn’t as widespread in the area, he’s been able to chat with talented student-athletes with Division I and Division II potential who are flying under the radar due to the lack of Division III programs.
“It’s unnerving yet exciting at the same time starting up men’s volleyball here,” said Guiliano, who spends roughly 25-30 hours per week on the road recruiting for both the men’s and women’s teams during the busy portion of the season.
“Our goal for the first year is to be competitive in every match and then in the second year we need to keep those student-athletes so we’re not having a huge attrition rate. Within five years, we want to be competing for conference championships and we want to be competitive within the region. We need to be in that conversation as a regional contender within five years.”
Keuka’s first varsity match will occur on Feb. 1, 2013.