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Michigan State men’s club volleyball reflects on growth of sports in state

MSU Green— Members of MSU men’s volleyball club’s Green Team pose for a photo.
Michigan State men's volleyball club
MSU Green— Members of MSU men’s volleyball club’s Green Team pose for a photo.

Michigan is one of the few states in the nation not to have volleyball as a varsity sport at the high school level. The surge of male MSU students who play volleyball show change is coming.

Michigan is one of few states in the Midwest that does not officially sponsor boy's high school volleyball. However, the Michigan State men’s volleyball club is working to continue learning and teaching the sport despite the lack of formal support at the younger level.

Volleyball has always been a popular sport with girls across the country. But interest in the boy's game in Michigan has slowly been growing, and the MSU men’s volleyball club helps foster that interest.

Christian Roberts saw his sister playing the sport growing up, and when he came to Michigan State looking to join an athletic club, volleyball stood out to him.

Roberts is a club and MSU alumnus from Harrison Township whose school never had a boy's team. The former member has seen the growth of the club over the past few years since he joined in 2019.

“Without high school programs spread throughout the state, most of the guys on our team had no prior experience with competitive volleyball, like myself,” Roberts said. “The club prides itself on getting guys out on the court to learn the great sport of volleyball. When I joined back in 2019, only 70 people tried out for the team. By the time I left, we had over 250.”

In 2024, 65 people made the club rosters across the organizations four teams, competing at varying levels. The MSU Green team, the top team, competes in the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation, followed by MSU White, MSU Posse, and MSU Greenhorns.

The teams travel anywhere from three to five times a season, depending on what value different tournaments bring to the club’s rankings, and with that comes financial needs. The $300-400 club dues help go toward travel and other necessities like equipment.

“I was one of the few guys left from before COVID last year, and it was important to me, as well as to the others, to make sure the sport kept growing in a positive direction,” Roberts said.

Last season, MSU Green ended their season fifth in the nation at the NCVF nationals, and MSU white finished ninth. This year, both teams are keeping up their nationally recognized performances with the Green ranked No. 21 and the White at No. 9.

Christian Roberts— Alumnus Christian Roberts spikes the ball.
Christian Roberts
Christian Roberts— Alumnus Christian Roberts spikes the ball.

Sophomore Jack Austin, a native of Lombard, Ill., is a current member of MSU Green.. Unlike a lot of his teammates, Austin’s home state has school-sponsored boy's volleyball, and the sport is big in Illinois. He said the transition to a state where boy's volleyball is less popular was an adjustment, but the MSU Club is working on helping to grow younger boys' participation in the sport.

“We just had a full-day camp at St. Joseph High School, and that was a really fun time,” Austin said. “We hung out with most of the youth and just spread a culture of volleyball. All day, we had a girls' camp, that was middle school and high school ages, and we had a boys all-ages camp. And then we had a youth camp.”

The Michigan High School Boy's Volleyball Conference has been exponentially growing since its start in 2018. Just four schools offered the sport to male students, but now, there are 59 schools in nine divisions spread across the state.

“The sport has grown in recent years, and we are starting to see high school teams pop up around the state, especially the west side,” Roberts said. “It’s really exciting and rejuvenating to see men’s volleyball in Michigan be taken seriously. We face a lot of setbacks from stereotypes about the game and from the lack of awareness of the reach of the game.”

The growth can also be felt at the collegiate level with more and more younger boys joining the sport. Head Coach Sante Perrelli has been at the helm of the organization for over 30 years and is a catalyst for growing the game.

“Playing a great sport with my friends, all while traveling across the country is more than I ever could have asked for from the club…” Roberts said...But, the goal of the club has always been to make outstanding, hardworking, honest men; who also happen to be good at volleyball.”

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