In the 2017-2018 season, the Marist College Club Volleyball Team made it to the National Collegiate Volleyball Federations’ National Championship, which featured 240 teams from across the nation. Head Coach Rich Kelly was behind the team, which was nationally ranked as high as 19th across all of Division II.
A trader on Wall Street for 16 years, Kelly decided he needed a change of pace, which prompted him to make a move to the Hudson Valley and take the helm of a less-than-perfect team.
“I was looking on the websites of different colleges in order to get involved at the colleges,” Kelly said. “And I came across the position four years ago that they were looking for a head coach.”
The club volleyball team has been on campus for the past 30 years, and Rich Kelly has been the head coach of the team for the past four. Kelly played Division I volleyball at Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y., and took the opportunity to continue his passion for the sport as a coach.
“I always felt that coaches gave back to me at a younger age,” Kelly said. “Going on, I thought it was time to take my knowledge of the game and kind of explain that to the guys, and teach them more to bring them to the next level.”
The nationally-ranked team features 20 players this year, and has been working hard to earn a position atop the club volleyball hierarchy once more.
“It has been a lot more emphasis on coaching, going through a lot more drills and putting more on the players to be better conditioned better strength-wise, and to be able to focus more,” Kelly said of his coaching technique. The team has doubled in size in the past few years, allowing Kelly to run scrimmages within practices. “Drills can only take you so far as opposed to day to day match play,” he said.
Senior Marc Hopper draws a correlation with Kelly’s tenure and the team’s path to success. “Since my freshman year, the team has gotten progressively better,” he said. “My freshman and sophomore year we made it to the semi-finals of the NECVL championships at the University of New Hampshire, and then my junior year we won.”
Kelly’s coaching gave the team a chance to compete for a national championship, with help from the Marist Athletic Department. Recently, many club and intramural teams have faced the repercussions of the renovation of the Marist gym. Before the McCann Center’s renovations, the volleyball team practiced and played in Marist’s Grey Gym, and this year, the team was allocated the same practice slots which are now held in the McCann Arena. The team has been fortunate through the renovations, with Marist’s staff helping to make the transition smoothly. “It’s a pretty good commitment that they’ve made to make sure everything’s on track and runs relatively smoothly,” said Kelly.
Kelly has been working closely with the Athletic Department in order to ensure the club volleyball team has the tools it needs to succeed and become nationally ranked once again. This includes pushing for a higher budget in order to help the team face high-caliber opponents, as well as competing at tournaments around the nation. Kelly is also working with Marist College Admissions, with the hope that they can provide greater exposure of the team to prospective students. “We need more promotion to become more known, since we don’t have a varsity team,” Kelly said.
It is with this very help from the Marist College brass that has allowed the Club Volleyball team to double in size and compete at a higher level. That, combined with a grizzled Wall Street veteran with a re-ignited passion for the sport, could Marist College turn into a men’s volleyball powerhouse?