UW-Eau Claire men’s volleyball club ranked No. 1 in the nation for Division II

The volleyball team will be going to the national championship in Louisville in April

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As the national championship swiftly approaches, UW-Eau Claire’s men’s volleyball club is not only staying competitive, they are topping the charts.

The Eau Claire men’s volleyball club is currently ranked No. 1 in The National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Division II. After big wins against top 10 teams like La Crosse and Platteville, the team’s goal of winning nationals inches closer.

Sophomore Pierce Moriarty, a captain on the A team, said it’s a great feeling to be ranked number one and hopes the team will be able to keep it up even with “the target on our back.”

Moriarty said at the beginning of each season the teams sign up for which division they want to compete in. While he said they could rank in the middle of the NCVF I teams, they are happier with being more competitive at the top of NCVF II.

“We like being able to compete at a high level for a national championship versus being middle of the pack for Division I,” Moriarty said.

Eau Claire has gone to nationals 11 out of the last 12 years but hasn’t won a national championship yet. However, Moriarty said, it’s the strong connection between teammates that keeps them coming back and sparring with some of the best in the nation.

“I think chemistry is huge when it comes to volleyball because if you just don’t click,” Moriarty said, “you’re not going to be very good.”

It’s for this reason that senior Alex Jelacic likes the sport and plays for the Eau Claire team. Both Moriarty and Jelacic compared volleyball to a sport like basketball, and said physical strength and a singular team member could make you the most competitive, which isn’t the case for volleyball.

Jelacic said they are a team both on and off the court as they have hangouts, dinners and other bonding experiences as a group.

“Through that camaraderie, your team plays better and then as you get better as a player your team gets better,” Jelacic said.

Part of the reason Eau Claire performs so well, Jelacic said, comes from their ability to take criticism. With no coach for the men’s volleyball club, Jelacic said it’s more effective to help new players learn when they listen to what needs to be worked on from a fellow teammate.

With the national championship in Louisville, Kentucky April 7-9, Jelacic said the team will be working on staying true to themselves. He said they will avoid coming into the championship overthinking other teams and potentially doing something they wouldn’t normally do.

But Jelacic said they’ll be competitive in the national championship no matter who they play.

“For some random school out in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin,” he said, “(staying competitive) is sort of the dream.”

It’s their “goofy” nature that Jelacic said helps them come together as a team. The volleyball club played Winona State this previous weekend, and Jelacic said they “pretty much goof around, like, the whole time.” And then followed up that goofing around with a convincing win.

“I honestly think that’s because we were relaxed,” Jelacic said. “We were laid back and we were just playing Eau Claire volleyball. That’s what we say in the huddle. It’s Eau Claire volleyball.”