The Next Step – Successful Recruiting Looks to Heighten BVU’s Volleyball Program


Joshua Tigges, Staff

As spring season begins, an impressive recruitment cycle concludes for BVU Head Volleyball Coach Will Baumann, securing 14 commitments with an additional three likely. Having a goal of 15 recruits, Baumann aims to heighten practice competitiveness with an anticipated roster of 24 players next fall utilizing two full courts. Not only does this recruiting success contribute to raising the bar, but Baumann said, “I want my practices to be far more intense than the games so that when we do experience intensity in a game, it’s just another day.”  

According to NCAA Research, in 2020 there were 452,808 women’s volleyball competitors in high school, 1.6% (or 7,245) of whom continued their athletic career in a Division III program. The rural location of BVU and lack of historical volleyball success contributes to small levels of name recognition across the nation. The combination of these factors makes recruiting from an already small pool increasingly challenging.  

Given the recruitment competitiveness, Conner Ellinghuysen, director of admissions at Buena Vista University, has continuously worked to formulate strategies for strengthening recruitment numbers. Through bi-weekly meetings with coaches, he has discovered “The most effective [strategy] is actually getting out into the communities, talking with coaches, going to visit high schools, really building up a network of people who know you.” This visibility factor helps to communicate coaching style and program culture to naturally allow students to envision themselves as part of a team.  

Baumann said the recent recruiting success brings great fulfillment since his vision has come to fruition.  Leading various high school programs to state championships, he has developed name recognition within the state that provides a strong network he can rely on. He said, “[those connections] have been paramount so far.” 

BVU Head Volleyball Coach Will Baumann talks to his team during Spring Season.

Yet, with the BV volleyball team historically having little impact on the local Storm Lake community, discussions have opened to host camps. Baumann aims to develop these camps in a way that establishes initial connections with prospective recruits, by having current athletes work with high school players. Additionally, Baumann hopes to host coach clinics. Welcoming coaches from around the area to experience the intentionality behind building a practice plan and showcasing how that is executed within the program provides an understanding of BVU’s program structure, leading to player recommendations. “I think it’s a good way to impact volleyball as a culture in the nearby vicinity and I think we need to do that,” said Baumann. 

While camps develop connections, more importantly, they bring recruits to campus. Ellinghuysen said, “Eighty percent of them will do a campus visit before they actually make their decision.” In order to ensure a quality visit, many current student athletes go out of their way to welcome these recruits.

Hailey Darrah prepares to serve during Spring Season practice.

Hailey Darrah, a first year defensive specialist on the volleyball team, pointed out how engagement begins before recruits arrive. “We reach out to try to help them feel included before they get on campus,” she said. Even during the off-season, the collective team atmosphere motivates players to strengthen the program, especially through supporting recruits.  

Darrah said, “We’re trying to build something bigger than ourselves. We want our team to be successful and that comes from everybody, not just the people that are on the court.”  

As Baumann said, “Recruiting gives us the opportunity to go and find the exact pieces that are going to match exactly what we’re building.”  

Recruitment strengthens programs, but also students’ futures. Ellinghuysen said, “Recruiting is all about helping students find the best fit college.” Given the successful recruiting season optimism, high hopes, and excitement accompanies anticipation for the fall.  

“We are in such a better spot than we were a year ago, and I’m really pleased with what we have coming in,” said Baumann. With goals already established for next season, the team eagerly awaits the arrival of 14 recruits who are committed to building a program bigger than themselves.