Culkin will complement Rigg as full-time assistant coach
June 9, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
As the reigning National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) Coach of the Year, one might think Liberty University men's volleyball Head Coach Bryan Rigg wouldn't need any help.
However, after guiding the Flames to the NCVF Division I-A bracket for the first time in early April in Reno, Nev., where they finished 34th in the nation, Rigg has hired Ryan Culkin to serve as his assistant.
Culkin, who played receiver on Liberty's football team as an undergraduate, was one of Liberty's leading blockers as a graduate student last season and is in his second season on the beach volleyball team this summer.
"He's a great athlete, which is one of the big reasons I wanted to hire him," said Rigg, who has 13 years of volleyball experience as a player and a coach at Liberty. "Ryan's a natural competitor and he will complement me very, very well."
Rigg said his democratic approach to his players and Culkin's authoritarian style, which he developed from playing football at the Division I level and serving as a Club Sports strength coach last year, should mesh well.
"As a head coach, I'm good at getting to know the guys and their playing styles and where they fit within the lineup," Rigg said. "I need somebody who knows how to work hard, how to motivate the team, and to take the program to the next level, somebody who can push the guys hard and brings a spirit of discipline."
|Culkin is in his second season playing on the beach volleyball team.|
Culkin, who graduated with a degree in psychology and is currently doing his practicum to complete his master's degree in counseling, will primarily work with Liberty's middle hitters and assist Rigg with team management at practices and tournaments.
He has never coached volleyball before, but he was an inspirational leader for the Flames this past season, even from the bench while rehabilitating from a mid-season shoulder dislocation.
"This is my passion. I have a love for sports and coaching is something I knew it was going to do," said Culkin, who will marry the sister of fellow Liberty middle blocker Sam Eisbrenner this summer in Canada. "I love working with athletes who want to get better and want to win and to glorify Christ as they're doing it."
He sees Liberty's program continuing to rise through the ranks of the NCVF, as well as the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) Tournament, which the Flames expect to host for the second straight season after finishing runner-up in March.
"We're still young when it comes to being that higher level team," Culkin said, noting the Flames are closing the gap on perennial volleyball powers Virginia Tech and James Madison University. "Liberty is definitely on the map for being a force in the men's volleyball realm. It used to be half the players at Liberty were students who liked volleyball. Now, three quarters of the team were recruited to play volleyball here."
Seven of the 18 members of this year's roster will be new, including sophomore transfer Nick Williamson at setter.
"We're very excited about the recruiting class we have coming in," he added. "We believe we have the talent. We just need to put the time and the work in to get there. We want to take the next step, to win a national championship. We would love to be able to compete in the (NCVF Division-IA) Gold Bracket next year."
Liberty will feature more NCAA Division II and III teams on its schedule than ever before this year. Following the fall season, the Flames will kick off the spring semester with a Midnight Madness event on Jan. 30, 2015, in the Vines Center.