The UW Oshkosh men’s volleyball team successfully took home its third straight National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Title on April 10, after a 3-game victory over No. 9 Penn State at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Titans’ appearance in the title game certified them as a common title contender, finishing third or better at the national tournament 10 out of the last 12 years with titles in 2006, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and runner up finishes in 2005 and 2009.
The Titans finished the year with a 56-4 overall record and had four players receive top honors in the NCVF.
The three national title wins for the Titans have been won behind senior setter and All-American Travis Hudson. However, he said the title wins are more multidimensional than just having great players.
“We had good team chemistry the previous two years, so playing well with each other came easy,” Hudson said. “This year it was a will to want to be great. We wanted to win when it finally counted, so people stepped up when needed.”
Hudson also stated he believes head coach Brian Schaefer has been the driving force behind his potential at UWO.
Schaefer, who has been the head coach for the Titans the past 16 years, was named the 2005 Division I National Coach of the Year in the NCVF. He has coached 47 players who have received All-American awards, as well as 132 players who have received All-Conference awards.
Over the past 16 years of his career, Schaefer has led the Titans to an overall record of 776-161-5 and a winning percentage of .826.
Schaefer said he believes this winning mentality is based on an emotional draw rather than solely a physical one.
“I really think it is important to care for your players beyond the court,” Schaefer said. “I try to be a great role model for them in terms of work ethic, honesty and understanding. If the players feel like you will do almost anything for them, they will in turn play hard for you as well as their teammates.”
Schaefer has achieved many goals during his 16-year career at UWO. Whether it is a national title or a player getting National Honors, Schaefer said he still finds the success of his team to be very rewarding.
“Our success is humbling,” Schaefer added. “We have taken third or better in the nation at the highest level of collegiate club volleyball 10 out of the last 12 years. What that means is that you need to have a group of players that not only have talent, but a drive to succeed. We have built a recipe for success at UW Oshkosh and when you put in the right ingredients, you grow a culture that remains tradition-driven.”
Schaefer added he is content with his position as the UW Oshkosh men’s volleyball head coach.
“I am lucky every day to call UW Oshkosh my home,” Schaefer said. “I get to, not only coach both the men’s and women’s teams, but I get to enjoy doing it with colleagues from the other sports that care about each other. There is no other place I want to be.”
Schaefer said he believes in a tradition-driven approach to his team, and it all begins with new players becoming adept with the Schaefer system.
Senior left-side hitter Alec Redlich believes the key to the Titans’ success is for the young players to learn from the older ones.
“The current seniors have really been the core that has dominated the last three national tournaments and every year they just need to add a role player or two to make another run,” Redlich said. “In terms of how our team is dynamic, we really rely on each other because if every player does their job on the court there is no way to stop our team.”
Redlich also said he thought the Titans were built around a sense of dependency on one another.
“We don’t have to be the most talented team out there because when our entire team knows they can depend on each other, everyone plays with more confidence and it makes handling the pressure much easier,” Redlich said.
However, due to the Titans’ success over the past few years, incoming freshman may be overwhelmed to play with the Titans. Senior middle-blocker and All-American Tyler Range said he thought the freshman were more excited by the Titans’ success, rather than overwhelmed by it.
“Well, I think our track record is a huge factor in why some of them wanted to come here,” Range said. “So for us to be able to demonstrate what this program is really about, is really awesome. I hope it’s something that they never forget. And the coolest part was that we had all three teams there so no one missed out on the action.”
Range added he believes the freshmen are learning a great deal from the upper classmen.
“I think the younger players seeing us win, first hand, really motivates them to do the same,” Range said. “We are tradition-driven and I think they really understand what that means now.”
Both Range and Hudson will be returning next year for an attempt at a fourth straight title win.
Hudson said he is excited about coming back for one last year and he hopes the qualities his team has now will carry into next season.
“In my opinion, excellent coaching, the drive to win, good team chemistry and the athletes willing to put in the work to be great make for a prosperous volleyball team,” Hudson said.