Ryan Webb is more than ready for his Kansas Wesleyan men’s volleyball team to play a match.
Fifteen and a half months after announcing the addition of the sport the Coyotes will play their inaugural game against Graceland at 7 p.m. Friday inside Mabee Arena.
“It’s definitely been a process,” said Webb, who was hired in October, 2020 and charged with launching the program. “For a year and a half we’ve able to recruit, bring in athletes and now we’ve got to gel and bond with each other and really get those practice reps and get used to each other in the system.
“It’s been a blessing and a curse – we’ve haven’t gotten to play but a lot of practice has been put into it.”
Webb came to KWU from Central Christian where he was coaching the women’s program and likewise starting a men’s program. He also has coached at Southwestern University in Texas and men’s club teams at Mary Hardin Baylor (Texas), Veritas Academy and Houston Volleyball Academy.
Webb inherited a blank slate, of course, and has worked to build a culture, a system and schedule.
The 12-man roster consists of nine freshmen, two sophomores and a senior who joined the team after competing in Esports.
With no program history to point to Webb focused on what he can provide prospective Coyotes.
“A lot of it was selling my experience and my knowledge,” he said, “and then basically letting them know the foundation I was planning to set and build on.
“Really just letting them know we have nothing but this is where we’re looking to go, this is what the plan is for the next four, five, six years. And actually a lot of guys want to be part of growing a program, not just stepping into something. A lot of them had offers to go other places but they wanted to be here and be part of this.”
Webb understands it might not be easy in the first year. KWU will compete in the rugged Great Plains Athletic Conference against NAIA established powers Morningside, Jamestown, Dordt and Ottawa. Webb is unfazed, though.
“Obviously, we don’t plan to come out and win every game but my biggest thing is for them to grow and to learn,” he said. “It’s a fast-paced game and they’re coming from high school or club so it’s going to be growing.
“It will be good to see where we stand and I think moving forward what we need to build upon. People don’t know what to expect from us so that’s a great thing. We can come in and we can make a name for ourselves and we’re going to build upon that.”
Webb says the Coyotes have some talent. Outside hitter/opposite side Viet Nguyen (FR/Wichita, Kan.) has played well in practice sessions, he said.
“Just seeing the work he’s put in over the summer and this fall I think he’s going to be someone who really steps into the program and makes a big name for himself,” Webb said.
Other front row players Webb is counting are hitters Victor Loya (SO/El Paso, Texas) and Frank Kassem (FR/Miami, Fla.).
“We have the hard hitters but what it’s going to come down to is if we’re able to pass the ball and really just staying focused,” he said.
Webb likes his setters, Colton Session and Angel Diaz (FR/Waukegan, Ill.), but they have different styles.
“They bring different aspects to the game, a fast pace from one and the other has the IQ,” he said. “I feel both of them bringing that experience to the game is something you should see.”
Christian Stevens (SR/Abilene, Kan.) is the lone senior but hasn’t played volleyball in the past.
“Really just bringing that leadership as a senior since he’s been here,” Webb said. “Understanding how to balance school work and traveling because he’s done sports.”
Men’s volleyball is simultaneously a mirror image and a wholly different from the women’s game, according to Webb.
“Completely different but the exact same sport,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a lot of hitting hard, jumping high – that’s what you’ll see from the men’s game. It’s really fast but it’s a fun game to watch and be a part of. It’s different from the women’s game where you see long plays and long rallies – you won’t see in the men’s game very much. ”
Webb helped coach Jessica Biegert with the KWU women’s program in the fall and said the experience and association was beneficial.
“The community we’ve established in the men’s program kind of trickled over from the women’s program,” he said. “I love the support we have from the women’s program.”
Webb says it’s time for his young team to see what college volleyball is about.
“They’ve never been in that big spotlight so staying focused and not getting nervous and just enjoying the time on the court,” he said.