SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Most college seniors have one thing on their brain: graduating. The final few weeks are a long winding road of work and payments to finish, so mom doesn’t have to cancel her trip she has been planning for months.

Springfield’s Ryan Coburn chose a different way to end his college career. He decided to join the top-ranked volleyball program in the country.

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This is not Coburn’s first go around as a student-athlete, he was a star on the basketball team where he set the school record for blocks. However, when Coburn saw an opportunity to get reacquainted with a former passion he jumped at the oppourtunity.

“I played in high school and I loved it,” Coburn said. “If I had any interest from colleges coming out of high school then maybe [I would have tried both sports]. But most of the interest was basketball.”

It turns out there was one person who had some interest, The Pride's head volleyball coach, Charlie Sullivan.

“Ryan, in his sophomore year, was in my sports psychology class,” Sullivan said. “We always talked and I knew he played high school volleyball. He’d say 'Hey, I played in a tournament this summer' and his senior year came and I said 'Wow, basketball season ends so early and there’s still significant time left in the volleyball season. I think anyone can use a 6-9 guy with long dangly arms.' ”

When Sullivan talked with Springfield's head basketball coach Charlie Brock, the word most used to describe him was enthusiastic, and he believes that is the best aspect he has brought to the volleyball program.

“You would think a guy who has played basketball for four years would be tired of coming into the gym at 4:00,” Sullivan said. “He’s brought energy, an attitude and enthusiasm. He’s been a great, great addition to our program.

The national tournament marks Coburn’s sixth week of college volleyball experience, so his role is significantly different than patrolling the paint for the Springfield basketball team.

“I’ve been putting up blocks in practice I guess, if they need me to go up and put one in the game, I will,” Coburn said. “Mostly I’m just happy to be cheering them on from the sideline.”

I’m just happy to be cheering them on from the sideline.
-- Springfield's Ryan Coburn

His efforts and enthusiasm are not lost on his teammates. That large frame has helped prepare The Pride for a run in which they hope to take home the inaugural Division III national championship.

“He’s definitely been a big contributor in practice,” Springfield’s Greg Falcone said. “He’s a big block that we have to go against every day. Pelly [Mike Pelletier] has definitely benefited from it having a big right side blocker to have to work around and I think all his hard work will definitely benefit us this weekend.”

In its opening game of the national tournament, Springfield rolled in a sweep against Baruch. The Pride are also hosting the tournament and their fans were out in full force. Suddenly with the game in hand during the third game a chant for Coburn broke out in the student section.

On game point he was inserted into play, but was pulled out after one swing.

“I got in, I was hoping they would set the outside so I could try and put a block up which is what I’m in there to do,” Coburn said with a slight chuckle.

“But they set the right side so our setter was out on the first play and no one called me off so I just put the ball up there. I think Keaton’s [Keaton Pieper] probably getting a little nervous at this point seeing the hands out there. So I put the set up there and not much after that it came right back out.”