First-year propels v-ball team to national ranking

Above, Gavin van Beveren. Jackie Molloy/The Miscellany News

When first-year volleyball player Gavin van Beveren was announced Sports Imports/ AVCA National Player of the Week, he wasn’t even the first to hear about it. He relayed, “I was at the Retreat when someone came up to me and said, ‘Congrats on player of the week.’ I said thank you, but I thought it was just Rookie of the Week. And then she goes, ‘Yeah, National Player of the Week is a super big deal.’ Van Beveren assured her that he only won Rookie of the Week for the United Volleyball Conference, but she swore that the award was national. “And, then I checked my phone,” said van Beveren.

Such a display of good-natured modesty encapsulates van Beveren. Teammates have commented on his infectious energy, a spirit he was kind enough to bring to our interview. Via email, senior captain Kevin Ros described van Beveren as “energetic, inspiring, and humble,” and said that although van Beveren is just a first-year, it feels like they have been playing for years. Head Coach Richard Gary further described him as “joyous, kind, and competitive.” It is this attitude, not to mention his success come game time, that has led to van Beveren’s early impact on Vassar and beyond —both on and off the court.

Van Beveren is from Alpharetta, Georgia, and descends from a long line of gifted athletes. His father played basketball at SMU. His mother and aunt played volleyball at Clemson. He has two siblings, a twin brother, Grant, who plays basketball at Wake Forest, and a sister named Colby, who, although not an athletic phenom, van Beveren insisted on mentioning.

Van Beveren’s parents were very integrated into the twins’ athletic lives growing up. Van Beveren’s mom was his club and high school volleyball coach, whereas his dad devoted himself to his brother’s basketball career. “My dad was my brother’s mentor, and my mom and my aunt were my mentors. It was a very divided household at some points,” van Beveren explained with a laugh. Because his mom often coached him growing up, his first time stepping onto Kenyon Hall court was his first without momma van Beveren in the stands. “My mom and dad are my biggest fans … So, it was funny that Endicott was my first game without my family there, which was so weird that that was the best I had ever played, ” mused van Beveren.

Van Beveren comes from a family with a pedigree of attending high-profile DI programs. Why, then, did he make the trip from Alpharetta to Poughkeepsie? “I think …of all the teams I visited, I sensed the best energy from them. I got the feeling that they were already really connected and really established, and that was super important for me in choosing where I want to go and how the team dynamic was. And Vassar’s education is pretty phenomenal.”

The Endicott game, where Vassar took down then-ranked No. 4 Endicott 3-0, was one of the games that convinced the national committee to award van Beveren national honors, alongside the United Volleyball Conference Rookie of the Week award. This was his second consecutive Rookie of the Week honor, and his National honor was the first time a Vassar volleyball player had won the award since Matt Knigge ’18 received it back in 2017.

Interestingly enough, there are a handful of similarities between Knigge and van Beveren. They are both a towering 6’7”, play the position of middle blocker–the equivalent of a rim protector in basketball– and wear the jersey number 13. Knigge is one of the men’s volleyball program’s most distinguished alums, and a three-time All-American. The comparisons probably won’t end anytime soon, though van Beveren can certainly make a name for himself with his stats and accolades. During the week of Jan. 25th, during which he earned his National Player honors, he posted 20 kills, 1 ace and 6 blocks overall. His best overall performance so far came against then-ranked No. 8 UC Santa Cruz on Jan. 18th, in which he put up a career-high 13 kills and 11 blocks.

Despite his impressive statistics, van Beveren is quick to attribute much of his success to his team: “I recognize, too, that my ability is only so much. I wouldn’t be able to perform without my setter doing his job, and the passers not doing their jobs. I know it’s cheesy, but it really is a team award. It is a very collective mindset.” When asked to describe the squad, he summed his teammates up as “goofy, driven, and cohesive.” If the team’s Instagram is any indication, van Beveren’s description is accurate. Their feed is mosh of silly and wholesome photos: team-bonding activities such as an Iron Chef competition and an escape room depict a close-knit, fun-loving community.

Goofy off the court, the Brewers shift into drive when they step onto it. The squad is currently 6-2, but holds a six-game win streak, including a remarkable 4-0 against ranked teams. Gary elaborated on the team’s determination through this streak, explaining over email, “This group found chemistry really early, and now we get to work hard and let it play out every day, which makes for some great memories. We were able to suffer one of our worst set losses this weekend, reset and come out the next set and play great volleyball. There’s no team in the country that we can’t keep up with if we’re able to keep doing that. There will be so many lessons for me and for the team in the next three months, and that’s what we’re here for–growth, fun, competition.”

The Vassar men’s volleyball team has a tough schedule this week. Just yesterday, on Wednesday, Feb. 5, they played No. 1 SUNY-New Paltz. Their next home game is scheduled for this Friday, Feb 7 versus conference opponent Sage, followed by another home against No. 2 Springfield on Wednesday, Feb. 12. But van Beveren and the team are most looking forward to playing No. 4 NYU, an “undeclared rival.”

This team will definitely be one to watch, especially van Beveren. If the early season success is a sign of what is to come, Vassar has a star in the making. Just make sure someone tells him this time.

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