SXU women's volleyball coach Bob Heersema recently won his 800th career match. Photo courtesy of Saint Xavier University Department of Athletics

SXU women's volleyball coach Bob Heersema recently won his 800th career match. Photo courtesy of Saint Xavier University Department of Athletics

Mr. 800 | Saint Xavier women’s volleyball coach Bob Heersema attains milestone win

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

A few trips around the baseball field in 1988 produced one of the greatest legacies in NAIA women’s volleyball history.

Then-Saint Xavier Athletic Director John Morrey tried to coax women’s assistant volleyball coach Bob Heersema to lead the program.

Heersema was reluctant. He wasn’t sure he was ready to be a head coach.

“He walked me around the baseball field for a half hour,” Heersema said of his talk with Morrey, who was the Cougars baseball coach at the time. “I honestly don’t remember what he told me to convince me to take it. “But I remember there was one dorm near the baseball field and there was a picture window on the fourth floor, and the whole (volleyball) team was watching the whole process.”

It was a good talk.

Heersema took the job and, 35 years later, has 800 career victories. He hit the milestone on Sept. 26 with SXU’s five-set victory over St. Ambrose at the Shannon Center.

After two more victories to close out the week, the veteran coach came into this week’s action with 802 career triumphs

Heersema, 62, is the third active coach in NAIA women’s volleyball with 800 or more wins. Stew McDole (Graceland University in Iowa) and Candace Moats (Indiana Wesleyan) both entered the season with more than 900 victories. He said he wasn’t aware he was closing in on 800, but is happy to have reached the mark.

“It’s a little bit more than a number,” he said. “It’s longevity, and it means a lot that it has happened in one place — and that’s even odder than anything else. But it means a lot.”

Over the years, he has won a ton of matches but also picked up plenty of coaching honors including NAIA District and Region Coach of the Year honors in 1989, 1998 and 2000.

He had an interesting high school experience, attending Morgan Park his freshman year, Chicago Christian his sophomore year, Morgan Park his junior year and Thornwood his senior year.

The IHSA did not sponsor boys volleyball when Heersema was growing up, but thanks to his father, also named Bob, he played in adult leagues that helped grow his love for the game. He also played for a club team at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

He said he played “a ton” of adult volleyball and played almost every position. After college, he coached at the Second City Club and Andrean High School in Indiana before joining SXU.

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