Jay Van Vark
The Grand Canyon women's volleyball team named Jay Van Vark an assistant coach in January of 2016.
Van Vark joins the Lopes after spending last season as an assistant coach wth UC Santa Barbara and the 2014 season with Ohio State University. While with the Buckeyes, Van Vark helped guide the team to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to No. 4 Wisconsin in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. In addition to finishing ranked No. 20 in the country, Ohio State also had three players earn AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honors.
With a passion for USA Volleyball, Van Vark spent the summer of 2015 training the nation's elite women's volleyball players for the Junior Nationals held in New Orleans. Over the past three summers, he has dedicated his time and experience to Team USA Volleyball and throughout his tenure has developed dozens of athletes on various teams and programs.
Prior to his stint in Columbus, Van Vark served as the assistant coach for CSU San Marcos in 2013 and a volunteer assistant coach while at San Diego State in 2012. He helped both programs to conference championships and postseason berths. The Cougars finished with a 26-12 record in 2013, while he was a part of an Aztec coaching staff that led SDSU to its first ever conference championship and first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001. Van Vark also had a hand in coaching two AVCA All-Americans and four All-MWC athletes at San Diego State.
An Iowa State alum, Van Vark got his coaching start as head coach of the Cyclones' men's club team and assistant coach for the university's women's team. During his playing days at Iowa State, he was named the club national MVP in 1985. In his final years in college, he played semi-pro indoor with the ACCO Sportswear team for two seasons and continued on to play three campaigns of outdoor volleyball for East Beach as an AAA-rated beach and grass player. Van Vark also played in five indoor USVBA Open National Championships. In the late 80s, he was a college referee and at one point was the youngest head official for the Big 8 (now the Big 12).
After moving to San Diego, he headed the Rancho Bernardo High School boys' and girls' volleyball programs for 10 seasons. He led the Bronco girls to their only CIF volleyball title in 1994.
Van Vark stepped away from competitive volleyball to establish a career in the software business. As co-founder of Kick Your Apps, he nurtured and built a successful software firm that develops iPad and iPhone applications, all while raising his family.
In 2006, Van Vark returned to the coaching ranks when his daughter took up the sport, coaching the Epic Volleyball Club from 2006-14 and resuming his role as head coach at Rancho Bernardo from 2009-11. He is also the author of one of the most successful volleyball statistics packages, iVolleyStats.
Assistant Coach / Recruiting Coordinator
Ari Smith is in her first season as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for GCU women's volleyball.
Smith served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of San Francisco for the 2015 season, where the Dons went 17-14, including a 13-match winning streak and tournament wins in the San Francisco Invitational, Utah State Invitational, St. John’s Kaiser Classic and San Francisco Challenge.
Prior to San Francisco, Smith was the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Clemson. In her lone season with the Tigers, Smith helped guide the squad to an 18-13 overall record and assisted in the signings of five women to the ACC mainstay. Prior to her stint working with the Tigers, Smith served for a season at Wofford, working primarily with the defensive specialists while also serving as the team’s recruiting coordinator, travel coordinator and film specialist. That season, the Terriers advanced to the SoCon Tournament for the first time in seven seasons.
Smith worked as a graduate assistant at North Alabama in 2011 and 2012, where she mentored the outside hitters. Smith also played two seasons at North Alabama, earning a degree in communications and claiming an All-Gulf South Conference nod as a senior. North Alabama went to the NCAA Division II Tournament in both of her seasons competing for the Lions.
Prior to closing her collegiate playing career at North Alabama, Smith helped lead Kishwaukee College (Ill.) to its third consecutive NJCAA Division II National Championship. She was team captain and All-Arrowhead Conference selection during the championship season, which culminated not only in the title but also with a jaw-dropping overall record of 56-3.
Director of Volleyball Operations
Rachel Ferguson is in her first season as Director of Volleyball Opersations for the Grand Canyon women's volleyball team.
Ferguson joined the Lopes from North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C., where she served as the Assistant Volleyball Coach during the fall 2015 season. In her role there, Ferguson assisted with Data Volley game stats and coached the Eagles’ setters.
Ferguson served as an assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach for Dubuque in 2013 and 2014. Prior to that, Ferguson was a four-year letter winner at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. She totaled 2,551 assists from the setter position and was instrumental in leading the Student Princes to three Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) championships, one OAC Tournament Championship and four consecutive NCAA Division III Tournament appearances with a career record of 111-35. She was a three-time floor captain and a team captain her senior season.
Ferguson graduated from Heidelberg with a Bachelor of Arts degree in media communications in 2013 and completed her Master of Business Administration at the University of Dubuque in 2015.