Biola men’s volleyball club team seeing rewards of hard work

The Biola men’s volleyball club team is putting in hours of effort in a bid to return the program to its former competitiveness.

Zachary Fu, Writer

The shrill ringing from an alarm clock that read 7:30 a.m. jolted freshman Matthew Perez from his unsatisfying slumber. “Why am I even putting myself through this?” he thought to himself as he rolled out of bed to get ready for his 8 o’clock morning class. The night before he had yet another late night practice with the Biola men’s club volleyball team from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. “It’s really how much you love the sport and I love volleyball,” Perez said.

Love for the sport carries volleyball team through challenges

It definitely was the love for the game that fueled this season of the men’s volleyball team. To say that the team faced obstacles throughout the season would be an understatement. Yet, this year has signaled a turning point in the program, which has been on a downhill slope for the past three years. Biola did not even compete during the regular season of each of these years, due to losing their coach over the winter breaks for various reasons. This year was no exception. When the players returned from their break, they received an e-mail that they were once again without a coach. However, the president of the club this year, senior Billy Nyenhuis, was determined to have the team finish off the season. “I just wanted to make sure that this year, we went all the way,” he said.

Even though Nyenhuis stepped up as the team’s leader, it was not easy. With “official” Biola sports like basketball, cheerleading, and women’s volleyball using the gym during most of the reasonable hours, the men’s team had to schedule practices at times like 7 a.m. – 8 a.m. or late at night. This, along with the resignation of several players from the team who had other obligations made things frustrating to say the least.

“To be honest, I thought about quitting a couple times throughout the season because it was so frustrating and it was so hard to balance all of that with school,” said Perez, a kinesiology major. He would quickly dismiss these thoughts because he knew that he had already committed to his teammates, so walking out on them was not an option.

Players learn to put aside individuals for sake of team

Volleyball is truly a team sport and playing as individuals rather than a unit is extremely detrimental to a team. Perez along with fellow freshman Jonathan Javellana played on the same high school championship team from Guam and also went together to the junior Olympics. As one could imagine, transitioning from that to playing on a team with players with many different levels of experience was not easy. Because of this, it is no surprise that the team’s biggest flaw was their chemistry with each other. “It taught me how important it is to have positive vibes (on a team). Instead of getting mad at people, it’s better to encourage other’s with your own play,” Javellana said.

When the season began, the absence of a coach was evident. Although Nyenhuis was the leader of the team, he allowed the other players to contribute in the coaching aspect.
“I understand that there needs to be a leader involved, and that’s what I strive to be, but I also want to empower the other teammates as well,” he said. “It’s good to get input from them.” This did breed some conflict among players concerning decisions that would be made during games and playing time, but for the most part, Nyenhuis felt that it worked out.

Team seeing improvement, celebrate first victory

Despite losing their first several games, the team could see improvement as the season wore on. Then on March 11, they finally had a breakthrough when they defeated the Whittier College Poets 3-1 in a home game.

“It felt great to just win again because we kind of forgot what that felt like,” freshman David Van Horn said with a laugh. He also played on a high school team that dominated, so playing for Biola was a huge change. The win not only alleviated the team’s burden of frustration, but it also was a snapshot of success that could come in the future.

“It was a great feeling and I think it brought us all closer as a team. Just the fact that we could play together and win together even without a coach,” Perez said.
Prior to the trend of coaches leaving the team, Biola’s men’s volleyball team was extremely competitive. However, the absence of consistent leadership has contributed greatly to the programs deterioration in the past three years. Nyenhuis and the vice president of the club Danny Borges are graduating at the end of this semester, so leadership positions on the team are once again filled with question marks. With talented players in six freshman and several sophomores and juniors on the team, the pieces are in place to revive the men’s volleyball program within the upcoming years.

Players committed to making team competitive for future

Both Perez and Van Horn have expressed the desire to lead the team if necessary in order to return the program back to its former state of competitiveness that was present four years ago. “I want to show that Biola can play,” Perez said. If leadership is instilled on the team, and this core of young players remains intact, the future looks promising for the men’s volleyball team at Biola.

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