Men’s volleyball wins sixth title

Brady Van Deurzen

The UW Oshkosh men’s volleyball team won its third straight National Championship Saturday, April 9 after they defeated No. 9 Penn State 25-21, 22-25, 15-3 in Louisville, Kentucky. With the successful campaign at the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation’s National Tournament, UWO ended its season on a 24 game winning streak and an overall record of 56-4. This year’s national title victory marked the team’s sixth, tying with University of California-Berkeley set for Division I. This was the Titans’ first three-peat in school history and head coach Brian Schaefer said he is proud of his team’s success the last three years. “We had an unbelievably difficult road to the championship this year, but somehow we came up with the big play that takes us to victory,” Schaefer said. “People ask us how we do it and it is simple, we practice hard and are dedicated in what we do. If you want to come home a national champion you have to put in the time and effort and we do this on a daily basis. It was another great year for our program and I am extremely proud of who I get to coach.” The Titans have added 10 top three finishes at the NCVF tournament in the last 12 years as well. First-team All-American junior right-side hitter Allen Grunert said he thought his coaching staff has been the key to the Titans’ recent success. “Without a doubt the greatness is because of [Schaefer],” Grunert said. “He puts his heart and soul into volleyball and cares for every one of his players. He works extremely hard to make sure we are in the best position for success.” The Titans arrived in Louisville, Kentucky with a No. 3 overall National ranking due to a 15-game win streak, and faced a potential nine more games at the NCVF National Tournament. The No. 3 Titans started Pool Play portion of the tournament April 7 and needed to defeat three opponents in order to move on. The Titans won all three games with scores of 27-25, 25-19 against the University of Pittsburgh, 25-9, 25-10 against Michigan State, and 25-17, 25-21 against Santa Clara University. Grunert said he thought their first few games were essential and he thought the Titans played very well against their opening competition. “I think we played well in the first round of the tournament,” Grunert said. “Our offense really carried us through the round. When our passers allowed Travis to have three options for hitting we were able to side out the majority of the time. All the teams we played in the first round gave their best, and made the matches challenging.” The Titans advanced to the Challenge Round on Friday after its successful 3-0 start in Pool Play. The Challenge Round consisted of two games for the Titans. James Madison University was their first competition of the round which led to a two game win by the Titans with scores of 25-10 and 25-19. The second game of the round was versus Illinois State, which led to an eventual win by Oshkosh after three games with scores of 25-20, 27-29 and 15-2. After the Titans success in the Challenge Round, they were elevated into the last stretch of the tournament, which began Saturday. Senior left-side hitter Alec Redlich thought their championship run was much less nerve-racking than he thought it would be. “I was one of the only people on the team to have never played in a championship match and it was nothing short of amazing,” Redlich said. “I was really expecting to feel nervous all day Saturday as we made our championship run but honestly the reason we kept winning is because any time someone made a mistake there were five other people on the court, a dozen on the bench, and hundreds in the stands to pick that person up.” Four games separated the Titans from the national championship title when Saturday’s events ensued, and the remainder of the Titans’ competition were all nationally ranked teams. The Titans defeated both Maryland 25-18 and 25-14, and Arizona State 25-19 and 25-22. Senior libero Samuel Moua said the game against Virginia Tech was not played as smoothly as they had hoped. “There may have been some speed bumps here and there against Virginia Tech,” Moua said. “But it’s how we overcame them as a team that made us successful.” The Titans dropped their first game to the Hokies 15-25, which was their first loss by double digits since February. After the first game, the Titans pushed back and took the second game 25-22 and third game 15-12. The victory over Virginia Tech elevated the Titans to the championship game in which they would face Penn State. The Titans started off by taking the first game 25-21. The second game belonged to the Nittany Lions, who jumped out to an early lead and maintained it throughout the game winning 25-22. The final game ended with a kill from Grunert leading to a 15-13 Titan victory. Senior setter National Player of the Year Travis Hudson said although he had already won two national titles, the feeling of winning a national title is a surreal feeling. “It’s unbelievable,” Hudson said. “It’s hard to describe. Still hasn’t hit me yet that we are national champions for the third straight year, it also means that we are leaving our mark on the NCVF. For Oshkosh’s history, we are the first team to ever get three in a row so that will stand until another group can do it also.”