Notre Dame Rugby Names Fall Coaching Staff

September 02, 2016RecSports

Notre Dame, IN - With the 2016 fall season getting underway, the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish rugby program is proud to announce the coaching staff that will lead the team. The staff boasts over 2 decades of experience including multiple regional and national championships. "I'm thrilled to have been able to assemble such a quality staff," commented first year Head Coach of the Fighting Irish. "Not only do these coaches possess outstanding knowledge for the game, but they each hold the vallues of what we strive for as a program and as an institution." Lonnie Heeter returns to the program he's served since it's rebirth in 2007. Coach Hickey reunites with Kruger VanBiljon who coached with Hickey at Davenport University before taking over the Grand Rapids, MI program in 2010. VanBiljon also returns to Notre Dame Rugby, after coaching for 2 years under Sean O'Leary. Joel Bennett has served as Assistant Coach for the Fighting Irish since 2011 and returns for his 6th year with the program. Tom Argy rounds out the support staff serving the program as video analyst, returning for his 3rd year with the team.

2016 Fall Assistant Coaches

Lonnie Heeter

Lonnie Heeter returns to Notre Dame for his 10th season, having helped revive the Fighting Irish rugby program in 2007. During that time, Coach Heeter helped build the program from playing In Division 3 to competing in the highest level of collegiate competition in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup and Collegiate Rugby 7s Championship (2010-2016), while producing 3 collegiate All Americans. Heeter served as Interim Director of Rugby and Head Coach for the 2015-16 season.

Prior to his arrival at Notre Dame, Coach Heeter was Assistant Coach at National powerhouse Penn High School from 2001-2007 where the team won several Midwest High School Championships and competed in the National Championship tournament every year but one, finishing 3rd place once. During his time at Penn, Coach Heeter helped produce nearly 20 USA Rugby Age Grade players.

Coach Heeter played for Michiana Rugby Football Club from 1992-2000, before a kidney transplant forced him to retire.

Lonnie and his wife Giovana, and their three children Cecilia (9), Nico (7), and Emilia (5) reside in Granger, IN

Kruger VanBiljon

Kruger VanBiljon is returning to the Irish after 8 years and will serve as Assistant Coach. VanBiljon’s coaching career started in the fall of 2008 at the University of Notre Dame where he oversaw the backs and team skill development.  He was also part of the first annual Collegiate 7s Rugby Championship (CRC) in Columbus Ohio in 2010, with the Irish. In June 2011, VanBiljon was welcomed back to lead the Fighting Irish in their second appearance at the CRC in Philadelphia where the team finished 8th out of 16 teams. 

In 2010, VanBiljon took the helm at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, MI, where he led the panthers to back-to-back D1AA National Championships in 2011 and 2012. As Head Coach, VanBiljon was instrumental in building the program into a top 10 national D1A team. Coach VanBiljon stepped down as from Davenport in the spring of 2014.

In the spring of 2016 VanBiljon rejoined the coaching scene, again and led Grandville High School to a Michigan State Championship. 

VanBiljon currently lives in Jenison, MI with his wife Jenny who is a 4th grade teacher at Sandy Hill Elementary. 

Joel Bennett

Joel Bennett serves as the Assistant Backs Coach. Coach Bennett's introduction to the game of rugby began in 2002 while attending local school and national rugby power, Penn High School in Mishawaka, Indiana. Coach Bennett began his coaching career with the Penn High School Girl's Rugby Club, serving as an assistant for a year before transitioning to the Penn High School Boy's Rugby Club. In the fall of 2011, Bennett accepted the role as the Assistant Backs Coach for the University of Notre Dame.

During his brief moments of free time, he can be found spending time with his growing family or hacking away at a local golf course.