The NAIA Men’s Volleyball National Tournament wrapped up its second year being hosted by St. Ambrose and will continue to do so for at least one more year because of the success the first two years have brought. The latest run brought out record crowds for St. Ambrose’s run through the tournament. During their first match against number one seeded California Baptist, the attendance was 1,218 people. That only stood for a few nights, as during the championship match there were 2,317 people who attended.
Bill Gleeson, the head coach of the team, gives credit to the sports management class who organized the entire event.
“They were able to help out with promotions, they would help out with tournament programs, and they would also help out with sponsors,” he said. “They did the activities between games two and three and they had a more administrative part…to have 15 to 18 other workers helping us out really made the difference.”
The sports management group also took the reigns on the promotion towards St. Ambrose students, where they created an event on Facebook that told students of the themes for the games and more information about the tournament.
Another big responsibility of the class was finding sponsors, which had its challenges.
“What’s really hard about getting sponsors is that the athletic department already has their sponsors that donate specifically towards athletics, so trying to find sponsors outside of that is really difficult cause we didn’t want to double dip,” Coach Gleeson said.
Gleeson said the class did “a great job.” They were able to grab local sponsorships from Rookie’s Sports Bar and Grill, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Old Chicago.
With success hosting this tournament already being proven, the NAIA called upon St. Ambrose to once again host the tournament in 2012, which they have accepted.
“I told him [the NAIA commissioner], free entry to the tournament, we’d have home court advantage…yeah I’m not going to turn that down,” Coach Gleeson said.
After a runner-up finish this year, Coach Gleeson is looking forward to having most of his players return.
“I think that’ll probably give us a number one seed preseason next year,” he said.
With that kind of excitement coming to campus next year, it will bring peace to some to know that two big programs of the NAIA, Lindenwood, who St. Ambrose beat in the semi-finals, and National Champion Cal Baptist, will be moving up into Division II next year, leaving the Bees as the top team in the nation.
Until then, the Bees will start their offseason next fall with a meeting and workouts. Coach Gleeson’s approach to next year will be the same strategy he’s been employing throughout his career here.
“I told them if you want to be the national champs, you have to work harder than the team next to you,” he said. “If we’re going to be number one, we have to work harder than everybody below us so we’re the national champions this time next year.”
With the sports management class organizing the 2012 National Tournament and the Bees looking to be the number one overall seed, look for 2012 to be a big year for volleyball here at St. Ambrose