The men’s club volleyball team came up just short in its pursuit of a national championship this weekend.
The Panthers competed in the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) National Tournament in Reno, Nev., advancing to the championship bracket, but were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
“Competing in the gold division, it is a completely different level,” said first-year head coach Aric Anderson. “Getting through even the first round is an accomplishment.”
Chapman swept the first day’s pool play with wins against Bucknell (25-22, 25-22), Bryant (25-20, 25-21), and Maryland Baltimore County (19-25, 27-25, 15-10), to advance into day two of pool play.
“During our third match we lost the first set and we figured we had to change our attitude,” said sophomore middle hitter Ben Geleris. “Once we started relaxing and started playing to have fun, that’s when we started to play our best volleyball.”
On day two, the Panthers continued their hot streak, with wins in their games against Dartmouth (25-22, 25-20) and St. Louis (25-23, 25-22). The wins in day two of pool play vaulted the Panthers into the gold medal bracket round on Saturday.
“Out on the court, we didn’t make errors. We were just playing our game, playing comfortable and not really forcing anything,” said sophomore outside hitter Andrew Jacocks. “It worked out really well.”
Chapman kicked off the championship round with a win against Army (25-21, 25-17), but was eliminated in the quarterfinals round by the No. 1 team in the nation and eventual champion, Messiah.
“We ran into a team that was more balanced all the way around,” Anderson said. “They had a lot more weapons than we did.”
In last year’s tournament, the Panthers were silver division champions, but this year competing in the gold bracket, they faced stiffer competition.
“They (the players) were very excited about showing how much they improved from last year to this year,” Anderson said.
With the success of the volleyball team this year, some players are looking for more recognition.
“It would be nice to be recognized on campus as someone who plays a sport,” Jacocks said. “Lacrosse players, football players, people know who they are. Volleyball, they don’t know we have a team.”
While club sports such as volleyball may not be as highly recognized at Chapman as sponsored Division III sports, the level of play doesn’t take a hit.
“The actual play is probably about the same, if not better with some Division III schools that I have seen,” Anderson said. “Club ball is pretty high level.”
In order to attract more fans and increase the popularity of the games, some players have taken matters into their own hands.
“We have tank-tops that we are looking to sell. We only get three home games per-year, so we try to get as many people out to that as possible,” Geleris said. “We invite people on Facebook. We probably invited 1,000 people on Facebook to our games.”
While these steps are being taken to promote the popularity of the game, some residual benefits could be in store as well.
“The increased popularity would be beneficial to the club and to each person,” Geleris said. “I think we would get a lot more volleyball players to come to Chapman.”