Sierrah Ruffner is a fourth-year student at Greenville College and plays middle blocker and hitter on the volleyball team. She began her volleyball journey back in the sixth grade and followed it through high school. She planned to leave volleyball behind to focus solely on academics in college, but God had a different plan for her. The head coach of women’s volleyball, Tom Ackerman, encouraged her to join the volleyball team at Greenville, and she accepted.

Ruffner spoke highly of Ackerman, not only as a coach, but also as a spiritual role model. “He is so dedicated in learning all the new systems, and training us to be the best athletes we can be. He also inspires us to be the people we can be in God’s image,” Ruffner explained. Ackerman definitely has a passion for volleyball and for God.

Aside from Ackerman, there are four other volleyball coaches who never miss a practice. According to Ruffner, the women’s volleyball coaching staff is “one of a kind.”

They are extremely hardworking and supportive, and encourage the team to be the best they can be, both athletically and academically.


Each of the coaches has influenced Ruffner in some way, one of whom is Hayle Ward (affectionately known as “Gibby”). Prior to Greenville College, Ward and Ruffner played volleyball on opposing teams, and later vied for the same position on the Greenville team. However, Ward did not let the past color her view of Ruffner. “She welcomed me with open arms and really showed me what this team was about. She pushed me to be the best player I could be, and supported me on and off the court,” said Ruffner.

Not only do the coaches support the team athletically and academically, but they encourage them spiritually as well. “Any time challenges come our way as a team we always look to God first,” Ruffner said. The coaches work hard to incorporate God into the lives of the team members by both holding student-led bible study sessions and taking the team to the Dominican Republic every three years to serve God and those in need.

Being a part of Greenville College’s volleyball team has given Ruffner the opportunity to experience different backgrounds and viewpoints on life, which she says has helped her grow as a person. The biggest lesson she takes away from the team is

“that I am a part of something that is bigger than myself.”
Be it on a Greenville College volleyball team, or the big “C” Church, everyone is a part of something bigger than themselves. As Ruffner stated, “Being part of a team can be difficult at times, but it has brought diversity to my life that I have never had before.” The lesson we can learn from Ruffner is that even if we cannot all serve a volleyball, we can each serve God through our actions and through our faith.


by Alicia Burris

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