He can dig it: Lewis volleyball player proves a big hit
Ryan Coenen got to feel like a star at a Mexican restaurant recently.
Coenen, a redshirt-freshman outside hitter for the Lewis University's men's volleyball team, was taken by a waitress to a family at another table with a daughter playing high school volleyball.
They wanted to meet him after Coenen's big match against Ohio State on March 18.
“It's really, really cool and eye-opening to see the impact I can make with people coming out and watching,” Coenen told the Will County Gazette.
That match against the No. 2 Buckeyes — a 3-2 Flyers victory — was played in front of more than 1,200 people at Neil Carey Arena who got to see Coenen register eight blocks and five digs on the day.
Those efforts were key to Coenen being named the Great Lakes Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week recently, LewisFlyers.com reported. Combined with the match against McKendree on March 16, Coenen averaged 1.5 blocks and 1.13 digs per set.
The honor for defense came as news for Coenen, who was a major offensive force for the Flyers this season. Through the team's first 26 matches, Coenen was first on the team in points per set with 3.77, second in kills with 282, and second in kills per set with 3.13.
However, Coenen said that he had been working on his blocking and defense in general.
“It was good to see that I got a defensive (award) before offensive,” he said.
Coenen got into the sport in his hometown of Franklin, Wisconsin, as a way to enhance his basketball performance by helping with his vertical leap, he said. He discovered that he preferred volleyball, and his coaches saw potential in the 6-foot-9 player. He ended up playing four years of high school volleyball and three years of club volleyball.
“I just found volleyball to be more fun, and I didn't mind going to practice and getting those daily reps, and it was a different sport than I was used to,” Coenen said.
Transitioning to college volleyball was a bit of a challenge for Coenen, with a pace at a much higher level, he said. Flyers head coach Dan Friend told him that he might take a few steps back before going forward, and Coenen found that be true while battling among players who had his height but were as good or better in some areas.
“I'm pretty sure I scared the coaches with how bad I was at first, so I took a few more steps back than some of the other guys before I started figuring it out,” Coenen said.
Coenen got into the groove of Friend's meticulous practices and also worked extra with assistant coaches during his redshirt season. Building a foundation for this season was huge, as he got his first chance to play with the varsity team — and get to know the players.
“You start to connect with the guys on a different level rather than just being friends off the court,” he said.