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Indiana Wesleyan gains connections with Munciana

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PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT:Cienna Nightingale, at left, concentrates on returning a pass from Brianna Daley during the summer youth volleyball camp at Indiana Wesleyan University on Wednesday.
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NEW COACH, STRONG TIES:Assistant coach Ari Anderson works with campers during the summer youth volleyball camp at Indiana Wesleyan University on Wednesday.
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DRILL TIME:A camper returns a ball over the net during a three-on-three short court drill at the summer youth volleyball camp at Indiana Wesleyan University on Wednesday.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

For nearly two decades, Indiana Wesleyan University women’s volleyball coach Candace Moats has recruited from around the country to build up the Wildcats program.

Moats has brought in players from California and Texas and all over Indiana to the Marion campus. The result has been more than 500 victories and eight trips to the NAIA National Tournament since 2002. Yet, she could make little headway in luring recruits from next door Delaware County, home of the all-powerful Asics Munciana Volleyball Club.

But now, the door is opening wide beginning with Moats’ two newest assistant coaches, while her latest recruiting class features two graduates from Munciana. It’s a very promising step in the Wildcats’ ongoing quest to win a national title.

This summer, Moats brought in Arijana Anderson to fill the graduate assistant position and long-time Munciana coach Dan Bergen, who has helped guide teams to national championships and runner-up finishes. Anderson is a Munciana alum who played for legendary Burris coach Steve Shondell’s last state championship team in 2009 and went on to Division I Tennessee State.

“Munciana is one of the greatest clubs in the country, and I don’t think it would be a stretch to say the world,” Anderson said Wednesday afternoon. “The work ethic and everything they teach you even outside the volleyball skills, like discipline and hard work and training, will carry on for life.”

Anderson was on hand to help Moats run the Wildcats youth skills camp for grades 2-8 in Luckey Arena along with incoming freshman Ana Collar, one of Munciana’s most recent standouts. Collar prepped at Hamilton Heights, and the Wildcats also brought in Munciana club member Bailey Green of Delta.

“(Munciana) teaches you the basic skills but also know how to push you,” Collar said. “I really like everybody there, and it’s very inviting, but they also know what they are talking about. It’s made me the player that I am today.”

Moats certainly hasn’t been limited in recruiting, and she used her connections to sign Kendyll Gebert from Fort Wayne Snider, who figures to be another high impact player. But having connections with Munciana is the proverbial icing on the cake.

“Munciana has been a strong program, and it’s fun to get attention there,” Moats said. “Once somebody comes and gets excited about, it seems like more people are calling me. And you get some good players like an Ana Collar, who is a solid, solid player and going to be a strong influence on the team right away.”

When Moats first arrived at IWU, and for a long time afterward, the Wildcats may not have been an attractive destination for Munciana players, many of whom were recruited by all the top Division I volleyball schools. Anderson said she wasn’t aware of the ‘Cats’ success at the small college level until she applied for the coaching vacancy.

“I looked at all the stuff and all the winning ‘Coach’ (Moats) has done but with their standing of faith,” Anderson said. “I thought that was beautiful where they are winning and they have faith and usually that’s hard to come by ...

“I’m trying to bring all that Burris and Munciana taught me and bring it into a program that already has it,” she added. “I’m just bringing in the lifestyle with whatever is necessary. This is already a successful program, and I’m honored to be here.”

Collar was compared favorably by Moats to Alexandria standout Morgan Miller, who’s headed to Nebraska, and might have been inundated with Division I offers herself if she was taller than 5-foot-9. She was recruited to play as a right side hitter for the Wildcats.

“Indiana Wesleyan is very inviting, and you feel at home here,” Collar said. “They have good athletics and academics, and I’m really excited for this year. I learn more and more each day about how good this program is.”

Moats said Anderson and Bergen are valuable additions to the coaching staff not just for their knowledge but the contacts they have each made.

“We’re really grateful this group of coaches that are coming in -- they are so talented,” Moats said. “They’ve played at a high level ... and Dan is a good get ...

“Both understand the bigger picture and also should help me in recruiting over the coming years because they are connected to the Muncie coaches, and that’s pretty cool,” she added.

The youth camp has 34 participants and concludes today.

Moats and the IWU coaching staff also will conduct a college prospect camp Monday and host a one-day team camp July 21.