When the clock struck zero for the Springfield men’s basketball team in the 2011-12 NEWMAC championship game against MIT, there was a sense within Ryan Coburn’s hopes and dreams to win a national championship which had all but appeared to vanish. That dream was revived when he received an opportunity with Coach Charlie Sullivan’s volleyball team.
“Coach Sullivan approached me about the chance,” Coburn said. “It was something that obviously enticed me. They are very good at what they do, and win national championships. It was a sport I loved in high school, so it wasn’t hard for me to say yes.”
The transition for any two-sport athlete is easier said than done, but in Coburn’s case, not a single spike was thrown down since his senior year at West Warwick High School (R.I.).
“I started freshman year of high school and played all four years there,” the middle blocker reminisced. “Since then, I have not touched a volleyball. This transition has been a learning experience but it has also been a lot of fun too, especially playing with the skilled guys that we have.”
Coburn allows himself to be adaptable to his quick conversion from basketball to volleyball due to his complementary skill set, knowledge of the game and 6-foot-8-inch frame.
“His length is a factor to a volleyball team and that isn’t so much a learned skill as much as it’s an innate physical attribute, so he can go out and become a great blocker,” Springfield College men’s basketball coach Charlie Brock said. “He has the ability to make this transition work and to become a factor with that team…I think it says a lot about his character.”
Jumping into a season that has already begun could be a challenge in understanding the coaching schemes and fitting in with the team in general, but for now it looks promising for the senior.
“It has really worked out well,” Sullivan enthusiastically stated. “He has a good report and close friendships on the team. He has done a phenomenal job so far. I think it is a testament to his character. I think we are dealing with a true Springfield College kid here.”
Where Coburn fits into the lineup remains to be seen at this point. There is a chance the middle blocker could do what he does best on James Naismith Court, which is blocking shots.
“We are looking to see if we can get some blocking repetitions from him,” the 14th-year coach said. “We would substitute him into the front row to go up against the opponent’s best attackers and give him a chance to get his hand on the ball.”
In his second game on March 24 Coburn recorded a total of two kills. This does not compare to what he accomplished with the basketball team, whne he averaged 7.9 points with a 42 field goal percentage, 6.3 rebounds and 2.85 blocks per game, but it is a stepping stone.
The team’s ultimate goal is to win a championship.
“It would mean a lot to me,” he said. “I couldn’t even imagine what it would mean to these guys here working hard all year. With them giving me an opportunity to come in this late, (it) would feel incredible winning a title. I want to contribute in any way to win. It has been fun so far.”
With one last tournament left on their schedule, the playoffs are in sight. Since the 2012 NCAA Division III Championships take place on this college campus on Apr. 27-29, the emergence of another title could be in the making.
Springfield has been on a tear this season. The Pride have already won more games than any other Charlie Sullivan coached team.
The Pride currently hold a record of 25-5, breaking the previous record of the 2003 team, which won 22 games for the six-time National Champion coach. That 2003 squad went on to win the Molten’s Division III National Championship.
Since dropping four of the first six games of the season, Springfield has gone an amazing 23-1 since.
The only loss to a Division III came to rival Juniata in the Juniata Invitational. However, the Pride avenged that loss on Mar. 23, when SC came from behind and defeated Juniata during the Springfield Invitational.
Junior Greg Falcone was named AVCA Men’s Division III National Player of the Week.
Fellow junior Alistair Matthews won the same award the previous week.
Mark Loiselle may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org