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John’s Journal: The Culhane Effect On Minnesota Volleyball

Retiring Southwest Minnesota State Coach Had Major Impact

Posted: Monday, November 15, 2021 - 5:25 PM


Terry Culhane

The Marshall High School volleyball team matched history on Saturday by winning the Class 3A state championship. The Tigers became the sixth school to win a state-best seven volleyball titles, along with Bethlehem Academy, Chaska, Eagan, Robbinsdale Armstrong, Tracy-Milroy (Balaton).

Earlier Saturday, the Minneota Vikings lost to Mayer Lutheran in the Class 1A championship match. Minneota has played in eight state title matches, winning three times.

Geographically speaking, Marshall and Minneota are almost next door to one of the best NCAA Division II volleyball programs in the country. Marshall High School is literally across the street from Southwest Minnesota State University and Minneota is only 15 miles away. And nobody can discount the impact of the Southwest State Mustangs – and specifically head volleyball coach Terry Culhane – on the sport in southwest Minnesota.

Before becoming coach at SMSU 18 years ago, Culhane was a Hall of Fame high school volleyball and girls basketball coach for two decades at Tracy, Tracy-Milroy and Marshall. He started his volleyball head coaching career at Milroy in 1979 and became a five-time Minnesota State Volleyball Coach of the Year, finishing with a high school career record of 519-112 in 22 seasons as a head coach. His teams appeared in 15 state tournaments with six state championships. Coaching basketball, he led Marshall to three state tournaments, including state championships in 2001 and 2002. Before taking over at Marshall, he led Tracy-Milroy to basketball state championships in 1992 and 1996.

Culhane announced last week that he will retire when the current volleyball season ends at Southwest State, and his impact on high school volleyball is immeasurable.

“I can't thank that man enough for everything he's done for our program. We're just so fortunate,” said Minneota coach Hayley Fruin, a Minneota alum who faced Culhane’s teams when she played volleyball at Minnesota State Mankato.

“We've got a lot of players on our team that have played club for him. And you can tell that mentally he gets them prepared and puts them in situations that they don't get frazzled.”

Marshall coach Dan Westby was an assistant volleyball coach under Culhane for four years, becoming the Tigers’ head coach when Culhane left for Southwest State in 2000.

“That was a great thing for me,” Westby said. “I learned a lot from Terry. The number one thing I've always told people that I learned from Terry is that everything you do is about expectations. You put expectations on players, you put expectations on coaches, and that's the one thing I really took away from Terry.”

Culhane is Southwest State’s all-time leader in victories with a career record of 429-123, including 256-66 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference matches. Under Culhane, SMSU has made 15 NCAA tournament appearances, including 11 NCAA region semifinal appearances, three NCAA region championship appearances and one NCAA national runner-up finish (2014).

One of his most decorated players is Minneota native Taylor Reiss, the National Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018 who was named the NCAA Division II Honda Female Athlete of the Year following the 2018-19 academic year. Reiss is now an assistant coach at Southwest State.

Marshall won its first volleyball title in 2004, Westby’s first year as head coach.

“We won the state championship right out of the chute, but that's not because of me,” he said. “That's because of what Terry had done.”

Current Minneota seniors McKenzie Tolk and Natalie Rolbiecki plan to play volleyball at Southwest State next year. Many high school players from Marshall, Minneota and other schools in southwest Minnesota go to camps at Southwest State and watch the Mustangs play.

“We have a great relationship,” Westby said of the ties that bring together the college and high school programs. “In most college towns, the high school program and the college program are completely separate. But in Marshall, our college team and our high school team work so closely together, it's just been great for both the college and the high school.”

Fruin said of Culhane, “That man deserves all the recognition and everything because he has done a lot. I’ve heard so many Terry stories about how he's got a big heart. He's a tough coach, but he's got a big heart, too.”

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at jmillea@mshsl.org 


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