An unexpected end to the season resulted in the early finish of the competitive volleyball careers for five seniors on the CSULB Men’s Club Volleyball Team.
The coronavirus pandemic caused the Southern California Collegiate Volleyball League to cancel the remainder of the season’s tournaments. Although seniors competing for the university athletic department have the possibility of regaining eligibility, the seniors on club teams will likely not be given the same luxury.
“Great for them, not so great for us,” senior communication studies major and club treasurer Kodie Redongo said. “We won’t get to play … As far as we know, we’re done.”
The players in the club are divided into two rosters, an A team and a B team. The schedule for the season planned for six tournaments for each roster. The A team competed in two league tournaments and the B team competed in three before the season was cut short.
The canceled tournaments include the SCCVL league championship, the 2020 Las Vegas Classic and the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation’s tournament. Over 200 club teams from around the country travel to compete in the NCVF National Tournament.
“It’s our senior year, our last season competing in volleyball,” senior mathematics and finance major and team president Kenny Brittain said. “This is our passion. I know it’s not anyone’s fault, but having that getting taken away from us is kind of heartbreaking.”
Despite being separated into two rosters for league play, the players spent three hours practicing together every Tuesday and Thursday night. After the conclusion of league play, the A and B teams would combine to compete as one collective team for non-league tournament play.
This season, the club leaders had a difficult time dividing the rosters since the talent pool was stronger than in years past.
“I would say this team was the best we’ve ever had from my years of being here,” Vice President and four-year setter Miguel Sanchez said. “We could have done really amazing things at nationals and Vegas.”
Although the university does provide some funding in the form of grants for club sports, the team’s travel expenses for out-of-league tournaments are funded solely by fundraising. The club officers are in charge of planning the fundraisers and coordinating the travel plans once the funds have been raised.
The team raised $3,500 through “opportunity drawings,” with the prizes such as tickets to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm.
“There have been countless nights of staying up and planning and fundraising and financing everything,” said Brittain. “There’s so much planning, so much time, invested into this season, and now … it really sucks, it really sucks a lot.”
Practicing, competing and travelling as a team has left a lasting impression on the graduating seniors that they will not quickly forget.
“It’s kind of like this whole brotherhood aspect,” Sanchez said. “Having fun and travelling. I have so many fun memories that I cherish a lot. This whole connection and brotherhood-base that we’ve established with the club team … I hope the program continues to grow after we leave.”
Some of the seniors have already begun looking at post-collegiate travel leagues to play in after the coronavirus has run its course and competitive sports are able to begin again. Sanchez and Redongo have coaching experience at the high school level and plan to continue contributing to the development of younger players.
But even with the optimism provided by the thought of future games in mind, the thought that these seniors may have walked away from a collegiate net for the last time leaves them disappointed.
These seniors left without knowing it would be their last game or last practice. Considering that the seniors who play for the university athletics teams may be given eligibility relief only adds to that disappointment.
“Them having that year of eligibility still, it’s what we have to deal with,” Brittain said. “It is what it is. We’ll just have to move on I guess, but … it was frustrating to hear that.”