Of all the Bruins intercollegiate teams, the volleyball team is unique in its fan base. Every home game, and many away games, the same group of students cheers them on, wearing their now-recognizable “Blue Crew” shirts.
The Blue Crew began as the joint endeavor of Lou Denny, one of the Bruins’ assistant coaches, and Daniel Heffernan, a 2018 BJU grad. Heffernan’s sister, Danielle Heffernan, played volleyball for Clearwater Christian College under the instruction of the Bruins’ current coach, Vickie Denny, and is now one of the assistant coaches for the volleyball team.
Lou Denny wanted to get a student cheering section together for volleyball, so he talked to Daniel Heffernan. Once the Bruins’ volleyball season began, Heffernan brought together some of his friends who enjoy volleyball, and they began showing up at every home game.
Since Heffernan graduated in May, Alexis Gonzalez, a senior business administration major, now heads up the crew of between seven to 10 men, including Jared Leith, Tyler and Dean Freeman, Isaac Childrey and Andrew Daulton.
“We started my freshman year, with a group of guys who really liked volleyball and who knew some of the girls on the team,” Gonzalez said. “We would sit on the front row and cheer them on, and we kind of just grew from there.”
Jared Leith, a senior business administration major, joined the Blue Crew last year. “Basically, we do whatever we can to get the team hyped up—learning the team’s cheers, making signs for the players and getting the crowd into the game,” Leith said. The Blue Crew cheers on the team from their reserved section right behind the home bench. “Volleyball is a lot about momentum, so we try to just bring a lot of energy to get that momentum going,” Gonzalez said.
The Blue Crew also travels to as many away games as possible. Last season they were able to travel to both Florida and Georgia to see the team take on Pensacola Christian College and Toccoa Falls College. This process included getting overnight passes and hotel rooms for the group and arranging their own transportation.
Jamie Grimes, a junior utility player, said that at one away game last season the team had almost no crowd support except for the Blue Crew. As the game went on, the small group of students cheered so loudly that they outcheered the home crowd.
“It’s super encouraging that they would come all that way,” Grimes said. “It really does help when you have a good crowd support, especially at away games.” Besides cheering for the team, the Blue Crew also tries to connect personally with the players on the volleyball team.
Lauren Mukenschnabl, a senior special education major and one of the team’s captains, said the Blue Crew has even practiced with the team in the past.
“Sometimes we have members of the Blue Crew who are volleyball players play against us, so then we can have a little harder competition,” Mukenschnabl said. When the Blue Crew travels to away games, the members will often eat out with the volleyball team as well.
At the end-of-the-year Bruins sports banquet, the players try to bring each of the members of the Blue Crew as their dates.
Mukenschnabl also said that one thing she appreciates about the Blue Crew is that they are always looking for more people to join their group. “They’re not a clique—they’re always willing to expand,” she said.
Joining the Blue Crew is not a difficult process. Once a student has gone to a few games and sat and cheered with the group, Gonzalez talks to Lou Denny to get the new student a free blue shirt to match the rest of the Blue Crew. Currently the core of the Blue Crew is all men students, but women are free to join as well.
The Blue Crew is unique among the Bruins intercollegiate teams mainly because of the members’ love of volleyball and the personal connection they have developed with the team over the past few years.
Since the Blue Crew started, the volleyball team has gone on to win two regional titles and one national championship. “[The Blue Crew is] a good positive cheer influence, and [they] help the team,” Coach Lou Denny said.
Grimes said she appreciates the effort that the Blue Crew puts into coming to all the home games, and she wishes that more students would join.
“If we play a great game and there’s no one to see it, that’s discouraging,” she said. “A lot of times, people don’t come to our games because they have things to do, but the players who are on the court have things to do, too, so they’re sacrificing their time. So why can’t you come out to cheer us on?”