Men’s volleyball returns to national competition

On April 9, the men’s volleyball team will travel to nationals in Dallas. Senior and president Justin Wilke said the team goes every year, and is ranked high again this year.

“We’re currently ranked fifth in the country in Div. II,” he said. “We should get a pretty high seed, at least five or higher when we get down there. There are 48 teams that go.”

Eau Claire also just won its conference championship, knocking out Minnesota State-Mankato in double elimination.

“None of the games were really even close,” Wilke said, adding three players made the all-conference team including sophomore Tim Bomgren and seniors Mark Behl and Jared Richert. Wilke was named conference player of the year.

The team faced challenges while trying to get to where it is. Wilke said the team is the lowest funded in its conference, and had to fundraise quite a bit.

“The women’s team plays in the fall,” Wilke said. “So we work there, we line judge and score keep. We sell T-shirts and for home tournaments we can get entry fees.”

Wilke said the team gets approximately $1700 from the school, and programs like UW-Stout get $4000 or $5000.

The team has to fund its own trip to nationals. That includes the $1400 entry fee, hotel and plane tickets.

Besides financial issues, the team also has to deal with odd practice times. The team has to practice from 10 p.m. to midnight because that’s the only time McPhee is open. Right now the team has nowhere to practice since McPhee is under construction.

To get around this, the team has to practice at Stout or UW-River Falls in order to get ready for nationals.

“Honestly, I’m a little concerned about (the lack of practice space)” Behl said. “But we’ll play at Stout and in open tournaments on the weekend to get ready.”

But the team still has fun, despite the issues, Behl said.

“Our team likes to get loud and yell a lot,” he said. “We get really loud and the other team gets flustered. That’s fun.”

Wilke said the team is losing five seniors this year, but he’s not too concerned about it.

“It’s a little bit of a concern, but the young guys that we have are really good,” he said.

The team is hoping to improve in nationals this year, after finishing in third place last year.

“We missed going to the championship by two points,” Wilke said.

Behl agreed with Wilke’s statements.

“We’re really excited,” he said. “We think we have a legitimate shot to win this year.”