Brotherhood and a Record-breaking Year: Inside Men’s Volleyball’s Undefeated Success

Undefeated and currently ranked number one in the nation by AVCA/NVA Division III, the Southern Virginia University men’s volleyball team is shattering program records as they battle their way through the 2023-24 season. 

What’s the secret to their success this year? They say it’s team culture.

“This year’s team is pretty unique with their culture and dynamic,” said Tom Peterson, who has served as the head coach since the program’s founding in 2016 and recently celebrated his 500 career coaching win. “We have good captains and leadership. Everybody knows their role on the team and fulfills it and supports each other. Off the court, they make it a point to get everybody involved and connected. I’ve watched them all go to dinner together and hang out after practices and become friends for life.”


Holding weekly family home evenings, celebrating mission calls and marriages, attending games for teammates who play multiple sports, and with two sets of brothers on the team, the members of men’s volleyball have created a culture of trust and cohesion both on and off the court that has strengthened their unity and dedication.

“We have a very strong brotherhood, and we love to support whoever is on the court,” said Christian Sheaffer (‘25), an outside hitter who is ranked fourth in Division III in points per set and sixth in kills per set, as well as being named the CVC Player of the Week four times this season and recently receiving his first AVCA Player of the Week. 

“Recently when a player got injured during a game, his brother was able to step in and take his place, and we all knew he’d do a great job because we’re all dedicated to the team,” Christian continued. “It’s the little things that help the team perform at its best, and we’re really excited to see what’s to come.”

On April 2, the team reached a historic milestone, claiming the number one spot on AVCA/NVA Division III Men’s Volleyball weekly poll for the first time in school history, having a 25–0 streak and dropping only three sets the entire season.

“This past fall when we had our off-season, one of our biggest goals was developing our culture,” said Tyler Sheaffer (‘23), who plays as setter. “We wanted to focus on being committed to each other, the team as a whole, and to winning volleyball games. We never had the goal of being undefeated, but once we got halfway through the season, we all made it our goal.”

One of the team’s most memorable culture-building experiences occurred in March after dominating four games in Rochester, New York. There, the team took the opportunity to visit Palmyra and the local Church history sites, including the Sacred Grove and the Smith Family Farm, before returning to campus.

MVB at the Sacred Grove
The men’s volleyball team at the Sacred Grove

“It was really special to visit a place that is so dear to all of us as a team,” said setter Maxym Sutton (‘25). “The moment that stuck out to me the most was when we prayed as a team in the Sacred Grove. No matter what faith we believe in as individuals, every single member of the team shares the common belief that Jesus Christ is the Savior of us all, and praying in the grove as a team provided a special opportunity to feel the Spirit and the love of our Savior in the very place He once stood.”

Joining the Continental Volleyball Conference in the 2017–18 academic year, Southern Virginia University’s men’s volleyball team started their 2023–24 season as number four in the nation for Division III and as the number one team in the CVC preseason polls—their highest preseason ranking in the program’s history.

By March 2024, the team had secured the position of second in the nation and are now setting their sights on the national championship.

“One thing that we do every season is set really high goals,” Justin Madsen (‘25), the team’s libero, said. “Our number one goal every year is always the national championship, and I think setting that high standard pushes us to accomplish things that maybe we thought were just out of reach. All the work we’ve been putting into not only to develop our skills but also our unity as a team has really been paying off in reaching that goal.”

Men’s volleyball will play their last game of the regular season against Randolph-Macon in the Knight Arena on Saturday, April 6, at 1 p.m. EST, which can be watched live on Knights Broadcasting. They will then prepare for the CVC conference tournament beginning Tuesday, April 9.