New Programs Expand Recruiting ReachPosted by on April 1, 2015 in "AJ Stevens", athletics, "Austin Babb", lacrosse, "Your OU" With the introduction of lacrosse, men’s volleyball, and powerlifting/weightlifting as new athletic offerings for the 2015-16 year, Ottawa University is finding prospective students from states and regions traditionally under-represented on the residential campus. The Braves have several factors to thank for the influx of students from such states as Virginia, Maryland, New York, Florida, Nevada, and California.
Perhaps the most obvious is the relative rarity of such programs in four-year colleges across the nation, particularly in smaller NAIA schools. Prospective lacrosse, powerlifting/weightlifting and men’s volleyball student-athletes are often hard pressed to find programs that allow them to continue competitive play following high school.
Ottawa University is only the second Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) school to add men’s and women’s lacrosse and only the fourth regionally, 49th nationally, to sponsor powerlifting as either a club or a team. And while men’s volleyball is experiencing impressive growth in the NAIA, there are still only 28 such programs out of 252 NAIA institutions nationwide. OU hopes to be instrumental in moving these sports towards becoming national championship sports in the near future.
Equally impactful in attracting recruits from new areas is the caliber of two new coaches who are leading or assisting the programs. Their reputations, resources and reach are boosting start-up efforts and providing added credibility that assures prospective students of quality leadership and potential team success.
Lacrosse Coach AJ Stevens has a career record of 74-45 and has been named conference coach of the year three times in eight seasons. In four seasons at Colorado Mesa University, he built the Mavericks men’s lacrosse team from the ground up to a ranking of 15th in the nation. Stevens also served as head lacrosse coach at the University of Illinois, where, in just two years, he compiled a 23-13 overall record and reached the conference championship game each season.
The new Assistant Volleyball Coach is Tom Sorensen, a former USA National Team member who played on the 1996 Olympic team that finished ninth. He was named the U.S. Olympic Team Committee’s Volleyball Player of the Year in 1997. He was also an alternate for the U.S. Olympic Team in 2000 and played for the U.S. National Team in 1991 and from 1993-2000. The exposure Sorensen brings to men’s volleyball, along with his skill set and high standing in the sport, are already making a huge impact on recruiting efforts, as well as on OU’s current women players.
Finally, OU is able to attract talent from such varied states because of the scholarships it offers. OU is the only four-year school in the nation to provide scholarships in powerlifting and joins only five others in weightlifting. Scholarships are also available for lacrosse and volleyball. “By offering scholarships for these emerging sports, Ottawa University is empowering young men and women to pursue a four-year degree while continuing to compete in the sport they are passionate about,” says Director of Athletics Arabie Conner.
Ottawa University is seeing some top-level athletes from across the country on campus to explore these new programs. Several have already committed. As OU continues to offer rising sports, top-notch coaching talent, and scholarship opportunities, The College is sure to see students from far and wide adding to the diversity on campus.