UW-Eau Claire club volleyball ready for nationals

Kyle Seidel

Despite recently dropping two spots in the national rankings and losing a player to injury, the UW-Eau Claire men’s club volleyball team is using experience and notoriety to propel it to nationals this spring.

The team, currently ranked fourth by the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association, had a mix of success and setbacks in February.

In the Feb. 5 Michigan Tech Open, the men fell to their host in their second match of the tournament – the only match to be dropped by the team during the open.

However, the fall season served as an important learning experience, coach Ron “Duff” Martin said.

“It showed us no team was just going to lay over and die for us …”
Ron Martin

“We had an off weekend,” Martin said. “We went in ranked No. 2 in the nation … it showed us no team was just going to lay over and die for us just because of our ranking.”

He also said since Eau Claire was missing senior left-side hitter Kevin Garcznsky and senior right-side player Aaron Stanton, the team couldn’t play to its full potential against the conference rival.

“Without those two players, we’re not a complete team,” Martin said. “They don’t carry us, but without them, we don’t have options to go to if someone is having an off tournament.”

Despite the disappointing loss, the team turned around in its next tournament, the Feb. 19 University of Minnesota-Duluth Open. Eau Claire not only took first place in the tournament, but also beat Michigan Tech.

“We needed to change a little bit with our defense and work some things out,” junior libero Chad Lang said. “Our passing is probably the main thing we’ve started doing well.”

Martin said the team’s strength lies in its depth and in the fact the majority of players have been All-Conference for at least one year.

“Our strength is that we don’t have just one player,” he said. “Backup is so essential in volleyball.”

He added the team is well-rounded, in that it doesn’t lack strong supporting players in any position.

This weekend, the men’s club volleyball team will head to Iowa State University, where it will get a chance to play larger schools in an invitation-only tournament.

However, he said the team will be without one important player, senior hitter Pat Fait, who is out indefinitely with shin problems.

“We lost one of our best guys,” Lang said. “We don’t know when he’ll be back.”

Martin said if nothing else, the Iowa State tournament will provide good experience for the team as it heads toward its goal of winning the NIRSA championship.

“We’re going to see some Div. I teams with guys that played high school volleyball and (have scholarships),” he said. “It’s going to be good competition and will help us to prepare for nationals.”

Lang said he’s optimistic about the team’s chances at the NIRSA championship, which will run April 14 to 16 in Kansas City, Mo.

“I think that we’ll do very well,” he said.