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Friday, April 18, 2014

Club team proves volleyball not just for women

Published March 21st, 2013

Geoffrey Snyder doesn’t believe in the idea that volleyball is just for women, even though most high schools and colleges offer it as a varsity sport only to women. As a member of the UW-River Falls men’s club volleyball team, Snyder doesn’t see the sport as favoring one gender over the other.

“We are our own entity competing in our own conference against other teams that we respect, and that respect us. Outside of high school and college, many men play volleyball both for recreation and competitively,” Snyder said. “Instead of seeing it as a woman’s sport or a man’s sport, we see a community that enjoys the sport and gets together a lot to play.”

The men’s team at UWRF is a part of the Northern Intercollegiate Volleyball Conference (NIVC) that includes teams from all over the Midwest. Teams include Winona State, UW-Eau Claire, North Dakota State University, UM-Duluth, St. Olaf, St. Thomas, Michigan Tech, and the University of North Dakota.

The NIVC is one of the most competitive conferences in the nation, according to Snyder, as it sends several teams to nationals every year. The high level of play and competitiveness for Snyder now has the UWRF team preparing to compete among the best at nationals for the second straight year. This year’s competition is in Dallas during the first week in April.

“You would never guess that there wasn’t volleyball in high schools or at all colleges for men when you watch them play at these tournaments,” Snyder said.

Almost every college in the nation has a men’s and women’s club team, according to Snyder. All of these club teams compete in their own conferences and several go to the national tournament in April. This year, 192 men’s volleyball club teams are competing at nationals, while 168 women’s club teams are, according to the National Club Volleyball Federation’s website.

Among these teams are several University of Wisconsin schools, which Snyder said are always very competitive at nationals. UW-Oshkosh is regarded as a top program in the nation and frequently wins the national title. But for Snyder and the UWRF team, it is more than about placing well at nationals.

“In the end, it doesn’t matter how we place (even if it would be nice to be in the top of the nation), it’s about representing UWRF on a national level and playing some really good volleyball,” Snyder said.

At nationals, UWRF will play against teams such as Harvard, the University of Southern California and West Point.

The biggest challenge for the men’s volleyball club at UWRF is in the number of participants. Currently, UWRF has enough to fill one team, but Snyder said he would like to see two UWRF teams compete at the conference tournament in the next couple of years as the popularity of men’s volleyball continues to grow.

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