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Club volleyball wins national championship

By Mark O'Neil
On April 25, 2012

  • The two day conference encourages open communication between doctors and patients about obesity. MIKE MARTINOLI/THE VILLANOVAN

 

The men's club volleyball team defeated Santa Rosa (25-19, 25-23) to take home the DI AAA national club championship on April 7. 

The victory marked the culmination of a stellar season in which the team finished second in its division and second in its conference, with a final record of 20-2.  

During its regular season, in which it plays in the MACVC East, the team played eight games, winning all but one of them. 

The lone loss of their season came to crosstown rival and eventual division champion Drexel in its first game of the season. With wins over teams such as Temple, St. Joe's and Swarthmore, the team headed into the conference tournament with momentum after reeling off seven straight wins to close out the regular season.  

Junior Reid Phillips, the team's president and captain, says that even though the team lost their first game of the season, they knew they could make a run in the postseason.  

"Even though we had a rough start against a good team, we fought back and focused on playing 'Nova volleyball," Phillips says.  "We knew that if we played the way that we can, there would be few teams that could beat us, and, in the end, that's exactly what we did."

In the MACVC conference tournament, the University went undefeated in pool play, knocking off Rowan, Bucknell and Kutztown to advance to the quarterfinals. 

In the quarterfinals, the team defeated Stevens Institute of Technology 25-20, 25-14 to advance to the semifinals, where the team played a tough three-set match against West Chester, eventually winning 25-17, 22-25, 15-13. 

However, the team would eventually lose in the tournament championship to Messiah College, in another thrilling three-set match. In the third set, which is played to 15, the team took Messiah all the way to 23-21 as the winning team must eventually win by two.  

After coming up just short in the regular season and the conference tournament, the team was prepared for the Nationals tournament, which was held in Kansas City from April 5 to 7. 

The team fundraised at the beginning of the year in order to pay its way to Kansas City, and the rest of its funds were provided by a combination of the University, donors and the players themselves paying out of their pockets.

"The national tournament is what you fight and work for the entire season," Phillips says.  "It's great to be with your close friends and teammates during those five days, literally eating, sleeping, having fun and playing volleyball-it doesn't get much better than that."  

The team took 12 players to nationals, and after three days of matches, came away as the DI AAA champions. The team went 8-0 there, with big wins over Truman State, Dartmouth, Penn State Altoona and Santa Rosa in the finals.  

Sophomore Adam Dings was named the All-Tournament MVP for DI AA, and juniors Piotr Kuczaj and Phillips were both named to the All-Tournament first team. Junior Josh Kehler was also named All-Tournament honorable mention.  

"It's crazy to think that Adam Dings is only a sophomore, because he is such an all-around incredible player," Phillips says.  "Kuczaj was a huge presence at the net, and Kehler has a great mind of the game and is a very smart player."  

This season was an improvement over an already strong season last year for the team, when it finished first in its division, third in the conference and 18th in the nation.  

Perhaps what is even more impressive about the team's outstanding season is the fact that the players did it all with just two seniors on the roster, Joe Shook and Eric Horne. 

"Shook has always been the big brother to all of us on the team, so we are really going to miss him," Phillips says. "And even though this was Horne's first year on the team, he served as a great role model to the new guys coming in and a great friend to all of us."  

Given the fact that the majority of the team will be returning next year, the team is looking forward to building on this year's success and putting together another championship season.  

"I have high hopes that we can continue with our success and defend our title at nationals next year," Phillips says. "We have been continually getting better over the years too, so I can only think and hope that next year all of the stars will align, and we can win our division, conference and national tournament."  


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