After a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2016, and not as much success a year later, the Montclair State University volleyball team was looking to replicate the success from Nov. 3, 2018. The players practiced hard for this moment. Head coach Eddie Stawinski had taught the players all they need to know and had a game plan in place for them to win.
But someone who flew under the radar, until now, was former assistant coach Brian Hurler, who is now a performance analyst for USA Volleyball. His relationship with Stawinski is something he will forever be grateful for, but the plan he had for the conference championship, and every major game, was easily remembered by two young members of that team.
“I think his scouting reports really helped us,” senior libero specialist Katelyn Monaghan said. “Before every big game, he would hand us a 10-page scouting report while we were watching film and there was so much detail about our team, the opponent [and] how we can win.”
Senior outside hitter and honorable mention All-American for the Red Hawks Carly Waterman also remembered the complex scouting reports Hurler drew up.
“He was always on top of the other team, making sure we were fully prepared, which was super helpful,” Waterman said.
Both star players for the Red Hawks also agreed that Hurler was a very positive person and no matter what was going on with them, on or off the court, he would always be there for help.
Hurler joined the team in 2016 after graduating from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) with a finance degree the prior year. That was the year when Montclair State won the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship against Ramapo College and moved onto the NCAA Division III Tournament, where they lost to Clark University in five sets.
Hurler learned success in volleyball pretty quickly thanks to the team they had in 2016 and the expertise of both the head coach and the staff.
And while it seems obvious that the coaching staff would have a relationship with each other, Hurler harped on the chemistry he had with Stawinski and how that helped him thrive with the Red Hawks.
“[Stawinski] is one of the most inclusive coaches that I have ever known,” Hurler said. “It was the perfect place for me to develop because you got to see how everything was handled and contribute to everything. He was more than willing to open the door for me and allow me to make mistakes and learn from them.”
In 2017, the Red Hawks lost in the NJAC semifinals, and then in 2018, they lost in the conference championship game, but Hurler proved with his meticulous planning and support that he was a crucial piece to the Montclair State volleyball puzzle. Then in 2019, a new door opened up, and Hurler joined a new school: Creighton University.
Hurler joined their staff as a graduate manager and technical coordinator, helping the coaching staff with scouting and opponent breakdowns just as he did with Montclair State.
But because he joined a Division I program, his arsenal of resources was much more expansive. Hurler believes his time at Creighton was helped thanks to what he learned at Montclair State.
“I was looking for an opportunity to keep growing and learn a little more about Division I volleyball, and it was a good fit in terms of transitioning from what I learned from Montclair [State],” Hurler said. “The head coach there, Kirsten Booth, worked like [Stawinski] in a lot of ways, which helped me in terms of mentorship because she let me make mistakes and helped me grow.”
After Creighton won the Big East conference championship, the next year, Hurler moved onto the national side for a little bit, helping with open tryouts for USA Volleyball, and was briefly named to the coaching staff of the U.S. Collegiate National Team.
Then in 2021, he moved on to Stanford University as a technical coordinator, and the Cardinals made it to the second round of the NCAA Division I tournament before losing in four sets to Minnesota.
This year, an opportunity came calling and he now has a permanent position with the national volleyball team.
“Working with USA [Volleyball], they have a world-class gym and great coaches, but they also have a community of analysts, so to get to know all of them and continue to have conversations and pick their brains is huge for development,” Hurler said.
With the small group of players he trained in Dallas for a professional season and most of the other players playing overseas for their seasons, things are currently quiet for Hurler in Anaheim, California with USA Volleyball.
But with tournaments in the summer coming up, Hurler is confident his scouting expertise can go even further than it has with Stanford, Creighton and the place where he got his start in coaching: Montclair State.
“I remember watching the 2016 Olympics back home in New Jersey and I remember being like, ‘Man, it would be so cool one day to be on an Olympic staff,’” Hurler said. “I decided I was going to head in that direction, and maybe I would never make it. But this was the goal and somehow it all worked out.”