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John’s Journal: Volleyball Coaches, Friends, Hall of Famers

Terry Culhane Joins Dan Westby On Marshall Staff

Posted: Wednesday, August 31, 2022 - 2:42 PM


The Marshall Tigers after winning the 2021 Class 3A volleyball state title (head coach Dan Westby at right rear).


Terry Culhane.

Forgive Minnesota high school volleyball coaches who take a quick glance at the Marshall Tigers this season and mutter to themselves, “Uh-oh.” What they will see is one of the top volleyball programs in the state, led this season by a pair of Hall of Fame coaches who combine for 12 state titles and more than 1,000 victories.

Dan Westby, who has been the Tigers head coach since 2004, began the 2022 season with a career record of 482-102. His first-year volunteer assistant coach is Terry Culhane, who had a mark of 519-112-1 in 18 years as head coach at Tracy, Tracy-Milroy and Marshall from 1979 until 2003. Westby’s teams have won a record-tying seven state championships and Culhane led his squads to five state titles.

Culhane left Marshall to become head volleyball coach at Southwest Minnesota State University in 2004 and Westby was promoted from assistant. Westby also has been the Marshall girls basketball head coach since 2009, another job once held by Culhane; both have led teams to multiple state basketball titles.

In 18 years at Southwest Minnesota State, Culhane took 11 teams to NCAA Division II tournaments, including a trip to the national championship match in 2014 and an overall record of 431-124.

Culhane retired at Southwest State after last season, and the two longtime friends are now reunited on the Marshall bench. Both are members of the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

“We talked and I got the feeling Terry was not ready to be done coaching,” Westby said. “I told him, ‘Terry, you’re always welcome in our gym.’ I thought maybe initially he thought about helping with practice, but he came to a summer tournament in Sioux Falls, sat on the bench and made lots of great observations. The kids cornered him at the end of the tournament and said, ‘Hey, we want you with us this fall.’ It’s great for our kids and even better for me to have him there.”

The Culhane-Westby relationship goes back to the mid-1980s when Dan’s wife, Deb, was a student-teacher and assistant volleyball coach with Culhane at Milroy. Those teams won Class A state titles in 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1996.

The two men are happy to be reunited this season.

“I enjoyed the years I had at Southwest,” Culhane said. “Dan and I are good friends and we’ve talked a lot. He said, ‘If you want to help I’d be more than happy to have you.’ That’s how it happened. It’s been fun. It’s a different world with college kids and high school kids, and that’s not good or bad one way or the other. Dan just said, ‘Why don’t you come join us?’ That made sense to me.”

When Westby, whose teaching and coaching career began at Renville County West, was hired as a teacher in Marshall, Culhane was coaching the Tigers girls basketball team. Westby was offered the job as head volleyball coach, but he suggested that Culhane also coach that team with Westby as an assistant. They coached together before Culhane left for the college ranks.

“It was a great deal for me,” Westby said.  “I learned a lot.”

Marshall won the Class 3A state title in 2004, the first season after Culhane went to Southwest State, and Westby gives all the credit to Terry.

“Terry’s fingerprints were all over that team,” he said. “We tried not to change things, but instead do all the things we did when Terry was there.”

The Tigers also won state crowns in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2021.  Marshall is one of six schools to win seven volleyball championships; the others are Bethlehem Academy, Chaska, Eagan, Armstrong and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (which also won in 2001 and 2004 after Culhane’s departure).

Westby said the Marshall coaches and players don’t talk about setting a state record by winning another championship this fall.

“After we won the championship a year ago, a number of people mentioned that fact,” he said. “That’s not even on our radar right now. We’re just trying to find ways to get our kids a little bit better every day.

“The goal every year has been to end up at the state tournament and try to figure out a way to try and win the state tournament. It’s the same goal this year.”

--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 

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