Men’s club volleyball will travel to nationals in Kansas City, Mo.

After finishing 31-15 in the regular season and third in the Northern Intercollegiate Volleyball Conference, senior captain Ryan Dalzell had high hopes going into the season-ending conference tournament.

Playing its best volleyball of the year, the eight-man squad took home its first ever conference championship trophy.

“Four out of our eight players have never played Eau Claire volleyball until this year,” Dalzell said. “We knew we had the talent all year long. It has just been a matter of putting it all together.”

The team went 9-3 in the tournament, including a 3-1 record in the double elimination championship gold bracket. It faced Winona State (Minn.) three times in four games en route to claim its first-ever championship.

Winona State, the fifth-ranked team in the nation, went undefeated against Eau Claire in the regular season.

“It was pretty much our goal all season to beat Winona,” Dalzell said. “We hadn’t beat them yet this season, but it all came together this time. We progressively got better from game to game.”

The volleyball team rolled through the first round of pool play, going 3-0 and beating Gustavus Adolphus College (Minn.), University of Minnesota-Morris and Michigan Tech University.

“A team’s goal is to gel at the right time,” senior Russ Maier said. “This was the right time for this team. I thought we struggled at times throughout the season, but more importantly, we were able to put it together and play our best ball when we needed to.”

The team went 3-2 in its second round of pool play, losing to Winona State, splitting games with the University of Minnesota and beating St. John’s University (Minn.) twice.

The tournament consisted of 17 teams from Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan and Iowa.

Four members of the eight-man Eau Claire team were named All-Conference, including senior Gerry Brisco, junior Pat Corran, sophomore Tim Upward and freshman Pat Fait.

Maier reflected on Corran’s consistent play during the season, saying he played the most important position on the floor as the setter.

“He’s been a great leader on the floor for us this year,” Maier said. “Brisco also played very well for us in conference. He had some key plays for us, including the match-winning hit in the championship game versus Winona State.”

On March 9, the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association selected the club team as one of 64 teams to qualify for Division II nationals.

The team will travel to nationals April 12 to 14 in Kansas City, Mo.

“Our first goal is to make it to the sweet 16,” Dalzell said. “We’re going to have to play consistent volleyball. It will be a matter of always playing our best game. When we’re playing our best game, we can compete with the top teams. We will be better than our seed.”

The team is thinking it will receive a seed in the high teens in the field of 64 teams.

“Junior Adam Larson is one of the most under-rated players in the conference,” Dalzell said. “He came up big for us in the tournament with his all-around game.”