Club volleyball wins conference, sets sights on Texas

Ben Smidt

Coming off its first conference championship in school history, the men’s club volleyball team has only lost two matches this season and has its geographical sights set on Texas.

More specifically Dallas, where this year’s national tournament will be held April 18-20.

The team finished ninth in the last three national tournaments, and there is no shortage of talent on this squad.

“I personally feel this team is the best team I’ve played with in my three years here,” said sophomore Nate Somers, “from our attitudes to how we play together.”

It’s going to take that kind of chemistry to get this team where it wants to be come tournament time.

“Our goal this year is probably to place fourth at nationals and we should for sure win conference without a doubt,” Somers said.

The team is ranked No. 19 in the nation according to the latest National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association Div. II poll. It is first in the National Intercollegiate Volleyball Conference. This year’s NIVC championship will be played in Winona, Minn.

The NIVC has grown from 10 teams when it began 13 years ago to the 24 teams that currently compete in conference play. Some of the regional teams trying to knock Eau Claire from the top spot include Michigan Tech, St. Cloud State University (Minn.) and Mankato State University (Minn.).

The team is hosting its first tournament of the year on Saturday. First the team must take on Eau Claire graduates in the annual alumni game.

“We’re trying to take things one game at a time,” said senior Pat Corran. In his second year on the team, Corran said he is ready to beat the alumni team, which has won the match the past six years.

“We’ll win this year,” Corran said. “Put my personal guarantee on it.”

The first serve of the alumni match will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in McPhee.

Somers, who is back on the team after taking last year off school, played two years for Eau Claire before taking the break.

He is back playing the middle blocker position, and like Corran, Somers said he’s been looking forward to the alumni game.

“We’re really pumped up,” he said. “It should be our best competition so far.”

With only two losses up to this point in the season, the team doesn’t complain about its No. 19 rank in the nation.

“To tell the truth, I prefer that we’re ranked 19th going into the national tournament,” Somers said. “We have high expectations for ourselves either way.”