Men’s volleyball works to rebuild

The Allegheny College men’s volleyball club has struggled with recruiting members and filling a roster, leading to the team’s withdrawal from the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Club Volleyball Championships held in Louisville, Kentucky, April 7-9, 2016.

The club’s president, Paul Willison, ’16, graduates in May, leaving the position open.

“I’ve been on the team since the beginning of my freshman year,” Willison said. “I had played volleyball in high school and wanted to continue once I came to college. I just love the sport.”

Willison was also a student assistant coach for the women’s volleyball team during his sophomore, junior and senior years.

The club sports community at Allegheny promotes a positive environment for those that want to stay involved with a sport without having to commit to the demanding full-time schedule that a varsity sport requires.

Willison enjoys the leadership responsibilities that come with being involved with a club sport.

“I love the communal coaching aspects,” said Willison. “We don’t have a coach, so we are continually learning from each other and pushing each other to get better. This helps build a unified team that is accountable, responsible and friendly for all that take part.”

A large number of seniors involved in the club graduated last spring, an issue that has plagued the team and Willison throughout the entire season.

“Recruiting new players is tough, especially at a small school like Allegheny,” said Willison.

Men’s volleyball club alumnus, Brandon Seitz, ’15, understands the difficulties that Willison and the team are facing.

“Allegheny is a very difficult school with a large workload,” said Seitz “At this level, players are forced to choose between school, work, sleep or volleyball and that choice is often not in favor of a club sport. We would get a large number at the beginning of every year, but the numbers kept dwindling as the season went on.”

The lack of players led Willison to recruit local high school students taking classes at Allegheny, which would allow them to be members of the collegiate team. Through this, Willison recruited Joe Coffee, 18, a Meadville Area Senior High School senior.

 “Joe was a competitive player that helped us immensely with one of the most important positions, a full rotation outside hitter,” said Willison. “He fit in well.”

Despite having an extra player from outside the general student population, the team still struggled to fill an ample roster, forcing them to play without substitutions and leading to a withdrawal from the national tournament that was held in Kentucky.

“This would have been the second time that Allegheny had gone to nationals in the history of the club. We had six players, the minimum possible requirement for playing,” said Willison. “It would have been an incredible opportunity for a small school to compete on the national stage against more competitive teams such as Air Force, Stanford and Columbia.”

The trip to nationals would have allowed the team to stay at the tournament for four days, with the majority of the travel and registration expenses paid.

“At the last minute, one of our players indicated that he didn’t want to go anymore. He claimed that he sprained his ankle,” said Willison. “We knew that this was going to be a problem, because we had already paid for everything and it would be hard to rescind our registrations, on top of being excited to play on a national stage.”

Beau Rankin, ’18, was disappointed to find out the team was not making the trip.

“To learn the evening before we were supposed to leave that one of our players could not go.. It was disheartening to say the least,” said Rankin.

The trip cancellation had negative effects on the court, as well as off of the court.

“This was tough for the team and has strained our relationship as a club with the Allegheny Student Government because they had financed the trip,” said Willison. “We were really looking forward to going.”

Rankin is concerned about the future ramifications of the team’s cancellation.

“It worries me, because teams that drop out not only lose the $1,300 registration fee, but it also puts our future eligibility in jeopardy,” said Rankin.

The Allegheny men’s volleyball team ended its season in April and will begin rebuilding a team next fall.