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Club volleyball spikes its national competition

By Ben Reiter
FILE PHOTO
Against all odds, the men's club volleyball team has built a nationally competitive squad.

The men's club volleyball team is currently closing out one of the most successful seasons in its 20-year history. The team won a share of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) championship, compiling a 5-1 record in a league that features top athletic schools such as Connecticut, Rhode Island, Columbia, Fairfield, Siena, Marist, and perennial powerhouse Army. They managed to accomplish this feat despite the fact that men's volleyball is mere-ly a club sport at Yale, and does not benefit from the funding nor notoriety that varsity sports receive.

The club capped off the season by playing in the national championships in Reno, Nev., a tournament in which they were forced to compete in the Division I bracket instead of their usual Division II because that bracket was already full. Vying against top-flight competition from around the country, the Bulldogs, who were the lowest seed in the tournament, finished with a record of 4-12, taking games from the likes of Duke, Indiana, and Georgia Tech.

According to tri-captain John Newman, BR '00, the highlight of the team's season came in their last regular season match in which they defeated the Connecticut, one of the top men's volleyball teams in the nation. "It was the best match I have played in during my four years on the team," Newman said. "We dropped the first two games, 8-15 and 11-15, and came out slow in the third game. But we managed to tie that game at 13-13, and from then on we simply overpowered them." Yale won the final three games of the match with scores of 15-13, 17-15, and 15-13.

Earlier in the season, a rash of injuries had the team questioning if they would be able to field a competitive team with four rookie starters on the floor. Newman believes that the injuries were caused by more than just bad luck, though. "We have a strong suspicion that the hard floor on the fifth floor of Payne Whitney, where we practice, causes all these injuries," Newman said. "We have always been injury prone."

Tri-captain and starting setter John Taylor, DC '00, was forced to give up the sport because of a chronic back injury, and a number of other veteran players were afflicted with back and knee problems. "The loss of John was really big to us. Besides being our best setter, he really was our team's spiritual leader," Newman said. Rookie setter Steven Shafer, PC '01, was forced into Taylor's starting role. "Steven played amazingly well, and thanks to him we managed to keep going almost without missing a beat. "He's a part of the best rookie class we've ever had—they came on very strong," Newman said.

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