A year ago GW’s men’s club volleyball team didn’t have a place to practice. In a week, they will be on their way to Kentucky for a national championship tournament.
Such has been the up-and-down nature of the club over its history.
“The men’s volleyball club has been on and off for a long time,” said senior Joe Parise, the club’s captain for three years and president for two. “But it was off when I arrived here as a freshman.”
Parise and classmate Cem Oztreves went about restarting the team as freshmen, trying to recruit new players despite not attending any tournaments or playing games.
“The general response at the beginning was spotty,” Parise said.
Funded purely on dues, the team’s initial philosophy was to simply show up and have fun. Over the next two years, however, the team became more serious. They held more fundraisers and participated in activity fairs to attract new members.
Eventually the size of the club grew and the group was able to get club sport funding from the University and even purchase uniforms. The team played in some matches and started to become more organized until it was faced with a new challenge: finding a place to play.
Due to renovations to the Smith Center last spring, the building’s auxiliary gyms could no longer be used for team practices. The backup plan, to use a gym on the Mount Vernon campus to practice, was destroyed when construction of the new Pelham dormitory interfered.
“We were on our own, more or less,” sophomore Joe Verde said, explaining that the University didn’t offer much support.
Fortunately, around the same time, a man named Daniel Davidson contacted Parise expressing an interest in coaching the team. Davidson had prior experience in coaching volleyball teams at other universities and the GW team, and wanted to help.
“He last coached a GW team about seven years ago and took that team to nationals,” said junior Eric Rosenfield, the club’s current captain and president. “Now he’s come on board as both a coach and a sort of organizational director.”
Davidson became the driving force behind the team, pushing them to join a league and, eventually, attend the upcoming national tournament. The team signed up for an adult league in Fairfax, Va. to obtain more practice time, and Davidson’s numerous connections in the volleyball world enabled the team to participate in more scrimmages and games.
Now the team has progressed to the point of competitive success, winning a divisional championship in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association last weekend by besting seven other teams, including the rival team from nearby Georgetown.
“We always get pretty emotional playing Georgetown,” Verde said.
Next the team will play in the EIVA league championship this coming Saturday at the University of Maryland, its final action before the unfamiliar competition of the National Collegiate Club Volleyball Championship the following weekend.
“We don’t really know what to expect,” Parise said. “It’s hard to know how teams from California are going to play.”
Despite that uncertainty, Verde said he is confident the team will continue to play well.
“After winning the division championship,” he said, “we have a lot of momentum.”