Two seniors helped reinstate the men’s club volleyball team during the fall semester. Even with probation and a lack of funding, the team practices every week and has attended a competitive open tournament.
Although the men’s volleyball club has existed for several years, it was not until recently that it was recognized again as an official club by University Recreation. Because of the lack of attendance and participation, the club was put on probation in fall 2016, and was dissolved in the summer of 2017.
However, after about a dozen students showed interested in recreating the team, psychology senior Garrett Matthew-Virgin and healthcare studies senior Austin Hoang took on the positions of co-captains to give the men’s club volleyball team a fresh start at the beginning of the fall semester.
“It just came to mind that we should try to get (the team) going before we graduated,” Matthew-Virgin said. “I know that this year, volleyball is more important to a lot of people, especially the incoming freshmen.”
In order for the team to be recognized as an official club sport again, the members and the co-captains met with Christopher Gormley, URec’s assistant director of competitive sports, to reinstate a new plan about how the team would operate as a club, a new budget and a club constitution. Gormley said like all new clubs, the men’s volleyball team is still in its probationary period, when it will be looked at with extra scrutiny.
“The volleyball team has had a problem with people participating and staying committed to the team, and I think that it’s going to change with this group,” Gormley said. “It’s a whole new leadership team.”
The club competed in its only tournament on Nov. 11 at the University of North Texas. Out of six teams present, UTD placed fifth. Matthew-Virgin said they remained competitive, even against more established programs, such as those from UNT and Angelo State University.
“I don’t think it’s our place in the tournament that explains the hard work we put in,” Matthew-Virgin said. “We were hitting and getting kills, and I think they just looked past us more than they should have. And that’s going to happen (with the team’s) being so young.”
Matthew-Virgin said there were difficulties because the co-captains had such little time to organize the club and make it sustainable for the members who need to take over the responsibility in less than a semester. However, the teammates have made the most of their limited time.
“There’s a lot of freshmen, so there’s a lot of trust put on the older guys that we’re doing things right, and hopefully we are,” Matthew-Virgin said. “There’s a lot of open minds, and I think that’s the biggest thing — people understand the situation and are willing to help and improve themselves not only for a better experience for themselves, but for the team.”
Matthew-Virgin said this semester is serving as a “rebuilding time” for all the players to learn to function as a team before the team can earn the school’s trust, helping to lift the probation. The rebuilding stage is also the time for the veteran players to teach new skills to the beginner players.
“If they develop as an athlete, that’s really good for them and that’s good for the team because we’ve earned a new player,” Matthew-Virgin said. “There are several players who have improved so much, it’s really cool to just watch what they’re doing.”
The volleyball community outside of the club has helped the team in recruiting players and finding people to play with, he said.
“The girl’s club team has been really amazing with us,” Matthew-Virgin said. “A lot of their captains and leaders would come to our practice and help us run practice. We collaborate quite a bit actually.”
Matthew-Virgin said the board of the team’s leaders agreed on planning to attend four or five tournaments for the next semester. Without funding from the university, the team will rely on fundraisers, team members and sponsorships, he said.
“I have a lot of hopes for the future,” Matthew-Virgin said. “The way this semester has gone, under probation and without funding and without a lot of the resources most club teams have, we’ve done really well for ourselves.”