NAIA men’s volleyball is relatively unknown when compared to NCAA men’s volleyball, and maybe that’s because the NAIA doesn’t have big names like Ohio State, BYU, UCLA, or USC to carry the NAIA banner. The quality of men’s volleyball found in NAIA is generally equivalent to the quality of volleyball found in NCAA DII and many DI programs. NAIA teams, however, get little recognition when compared to their NCAA counterparts. Last season, however, the NAIA Men’s National Invitational Championship Tournament was broadcast by ESPN on ESPN3, so maybe there’s some hope that NAIA men’s volleyball is starting to get some much deserved recognition.
Today, the NAIA released its preseason Top Ten, complete with last season records. Two-time defending champion Missouri Baptist starts the season as the favorite followed closely by last year’s runner-up Grand View.
|#||SCHOOL||LOCATION||2016 W – L||STUDENTS|
|1||Missouri Baptist Spartans||St. Louis, Missouri||33-1||1,109|
|2||Grand View Vikings||Des Moines, Iowa||20-8||2,064|
|3||Warner Royals||Lake Wales, Florida||23-7||1,176|
|4||Lourdes Gray Wolves||Sylvania, Ohio||25-5||1,546|
|5||Park Pirates||Kansas City, Missouri||21-11||1,078|
|6||Robert Morris Eagles||Chicago, Illinois||31-8||4,500|
|7||Clarke Crusaders||Dubuque, Iowa||20-11||1,200|
|T8||Hope International Royals||Fullerton, California||13-7||2,012|
|T8||St. Ambrose Fighting Bees||Davenport, Iowa||26-9||3,402|
|10||Missouri Valley Vikings||Marshall, Missouri||12-16||1,369|
On that note, it’s a really good time to reiterate the purpose of the NAIA.
“The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., is a governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics. Since 1937, the NAIA has administered programs and championships in proper balance with the overall college educational experience. The student-athlete is the center of all NAIA experiences. Each year more than 60,000 student-athletes have the opportunity to play college sports at NAIA member institutions. The seed of the NAIA began in 1937 with the tipoff of a men’s basketball tournament in Kansas City that has become the longest running event in college basketball. Out of the tournament grew the NAIA, an association that has been an innovative leader. The NAIA was the first collegiate athletics association to invite historically black institutions into membership and the first to sponsor both men’s and women’s national championships. In 2000, the NAIA reaffirmed its purpose to enhance the character building aspects of sport. Through Champions of Character, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values. In 2010, the association opened the doors to the NAIA Eligibility Center, where prospective student-athletes are evaluated for academic and athletic eligibility. It delivers on the NAIA’s promise of integrity by leveling the playing field, guiding student-athlete success, and ensuring fair competition.” http://www.naia.org/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=27900&ATCLID=205323019
Here’s a list of the 31 schools that will line up for NAIA men’s volleyball in the 2016-2017 season, with three more schools (Judson University, Menlo College, and Webber International University) slated for “first serve” in 2017-2018, yielding a grand total of 34 programs for the NAIA.
1. Benedictine University (Mesa)
2. Bluefield College
3. Briar Cliff University
4. Bryan College
6. Calumet College of St. Joseph
7. Campbellsville University
8. Cardinal Stritch University
9. Cincinnati Christian University
10. Clarke University
11. Culver-Stockton College
12. Dordt College
13. Graceland University
14. Grand View University
15. Hope International University
16. Lawrence Technological University
17. Lindenwood University (Belleville)
18. Lourdes University
19. Missouri Baptist University
20. Missouri Valley College
21. Morningside College
22. Mount Mercy University
23. Ottawa University
24. Park University
25. Robert Morris University
26. Saint Xavier University
27. Siena Heights University
28. St. Ambrose University
29. St. Andrews University
30. Trinity Christian College
31. Warner University
As I said earlier, no names here like Ohio State or Stanford, but the education and life lessons learned at these 34 schools is outstanding and the volleyball is superb.
LET’S GROW VOLLEYBALL (and the athletes, too)!