By virtue of its establishment, the Merrimack College men’s volleyball team is already a trailblazer as one of only two Division I programs in Massachusetts.
And head coach Ray Lewis said he sees that as a strong starting point to build not only the program, but the volleyball ecosystem in the region.
“The first time folks come and watch a game, they are going to be hooked,” said Lewis. “And the more kids that come to see it, the faster the game will grow. I also see our student-athletes as not only stewards of the game and our culture, but of Merrimack College’s mission.”
Men’s volleyball is one of four new varsity programs at Merrimack to launch its inaugural season during the 2022-23 academic year, joining women’s bowling, men’s golf and dance. The College now sponsors 28 Division I teams.
The men’s volleyball season kicked off in January and as of Feb. 9 the team is 5-4. Collegiate men’s volleyball is unique in that Division I and Division II programs compete against each other. Among Merrimack’s early wins was against Central State University, a Division II team in Ohio where Lewis previously coached, won a conference championship and started the men’s volleyball program. So he is no stranger to building a program from the ground up.
“Since there wasn’t a roster when I first got here, my focus during recruitment was selling my values and vision, as well as Merrimack College’s mission,” Lewis said. “And ensuring we brought in student-athletes that fit that.”
Lewis’ vision for the Warriors is to not only be a perennial title contender in the Northeast Conference, but also a top 15 program in the country. And he sees the significant contributions already being made by some of the freshmen players as a great sign. Opposite Zyshonne Lang ’26 has twice this season been named conference rookie of the week.
Lewis added there is a lot of support from the Merrimack community and that will help grow the culture he is working to build.
“There are a lot of details you have to remember when starting a team,” Lewis noted. “You need to create all of the procedures and expectations, from ordering balls and uniforms to figuring out how the team presents itself during warmups and on the sideline.”