Men’s club volleyball bonds as they prepare for the season

By JJ Kim, Contributing Writer

The Illinois men’s volleyball team may not be an official division one team, but much like one, the team treats its newest members with a warm welcome. 

Rookies have to sing during warm ups, giving players a chance to show off their voices before they take the court. 

“We’ve sung ‘Hakuna Matata,’ and  ‘Sexyback,’ a wide variety,” said freshman player Andrew Leno.

The key to receiving positive reviews from upperclassman is not necessarily quality, but rather enthusiasm.

Both Leno and team president Alec Horne agreed that freshman Konrad Wojslaw has the best pipes on the team, referencing his ability to put some “soul” into his performance. 

While forcing freshmen to sing karaoke is one focus of the team, the player’s main focus is still between the lines on the court. 

Even though the men’s team is a club sport at the University, several players have had experience playing at the collegiate level, which brings a competitive drive to the team.

“Everyday practices are competitive … unless I’m seriously injured, I’m all about that grind,” said sophomore transfer Brendan Murney. “Last year I played in a NAIA school, and practices here compared to there were equally competitive.”

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, is an organization like the NCAA, that allows smaller colleges to compete athletically.

Murney and Horne, who both have played volleyball above the club level in college, believe that the starting group on the club would match up nicely against division one men’s volleyball teams due to the chemistry and experience the club possesses.

Not everyone on the team has an NAIA or division three background, and because of this, the team is split into three groups based on skill level that is determined through a tryout. Although the teams are separated, Horne believes that each team offers some great talent.

“It’s a nice wide variety … nobody is really bad, we’re in here each week working on our game,”  Horne said.

The first team practices one more day a week than the other two teams in order to be more prepared for the high level of competition they face in tournaments. Nonetheless, players from the other teams still show similar dedication, often times coming before practices to work on their fundamentals and mistakes from past matches.

The drive to be a great team is similar to many division one volleyball teams, but the logistical side is where things differ. Being president of the team means Horne is responsible for all of that goes into running a team, from scheduling, finding lodging, planning team bonding events, running practice and coaching the team.

Since the team isn’t officially school funded, the players use dues and fundraisers to pay for lodging and transportation. Players drive themselves to tournaments and lodge on a budget.

In most cases, this means sleeping at motels for tournaments. 

“[They’re] some really gross motels, truly awful,” Horne said.

Due to how much the players are forced to travel together via carpools and the amount of time they spend together at tournaments, the team has formed strong friendships with each other. With their extended time together, the team really bonds over playing video games, namely Nintendo games.

“We hang out and go to the girl’s volleyball games as a team, and we’ll play a lot of Super Smash Bros. together, that’s always fun,” Leno said.

The way the club operates mimics the likes of a school-sanctioned sport, which includes the student-athlete lifestyle. Tournaments are held during weekends, often hundreds of miles off campus, which means players must plan ahead in terms of homework and studying for exams.

This season, nationals will be held in Denver, Colorado which would be one of the farthest road trips the team will encounter, but it will leave more time for rookies to warm-up their voices before the big show.

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