ROCK HILL, SC–This week has seen the manifestation of a plan that was a long time coming as the inaugural SIAC Men’s Volleyball Tournament kicked off in Rock Hill, S.C. Tuesday.
Both courts were occupied by teams engaged in intense matches on opening day including Edward Waters’ dramatic win over Fort Valley to close the day out.
While the on-court battles are a result of the work and preparation put in by the student-athletes, the tournament itself came to be thanks to the efforts of many.
Leighton Batiste, the Associate Commissioner of Marketing and Partnerships for the SIAC said it was a two-part effort to bring volleyball to HBCUs that spanned several years.
“It started with us doing our research and that’s where we found out that men’s volleyball, boy’s volleyball is the second most played sport globally behind soccer and it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the US,” he said. “And for us at HBCUs it’s very important to help our institutions with international recruiting, especially within the diaspora. In South America and the entire continent of Africa, volleyball is very popular among young boys and we wanted to really position our schools to benefit from that.”
Baptiste added that there was a fundraising element that went along with the research and individuals like Wade Gerard, CEO of First Point Volleyball Foundation helped bring the vision to life.
New avenue for International Communities
All of the SIAC rosters boast a diverse group of players and Tyler Williams, SIAC Associate Commissioner of Communications, said that by adding the sport, HBCUs were able to provide an important opportunity in international communities.
“The interest in volleyball was already there in South America and also within the Caribbean,” she said. “But volleyball is already really big there so for us to be able to give them an opportunity to compete at the collegiate level was something that they did not have and I think that’s where we kind of met the need with conference and with the men’s volleyball sport.”
The tournament is double-elimination and action continued Wednesday with Benedict eliminating Morehouse 3-0 and Fort Valley eliminating Kentucky State 3-0.
In the semi-finals, Benedict defeated Fort Valley 3-2. Central State eliminated Edward Waters 3-2.
Central State has punched its ticket to the SIAC Men’s Volleyball Championship and will play the winner of the Benedict, Edward Waters matchup. The two teams square off at 10 a.m. Thursday. The championship game is also scheduled for later that day at 1 p.m.