April 13, 2012
Suiting up for another big match and ready to lace up my shoes, I reach into my bag and pull out...dress shoes and a clipboard??? Surely, this must be some type of prank my teammates are playing on me. Looking around for the likely (smiling) culprit I just see the youthful faces of the Ramblers Men's Volleyball team. Suddenly, I remember (a) "Whoa, I'm old," (b) my eligibility expired in 2010, and (c) I'm not playing for the Ramblers anymore. I'm getting ready to coach. The exciting (raise the hair on the back of your neck) tension that I felt as a player walking out onto the court pre-match is exhilarating and eerily similar to the feeling I now get when walking out to coach. With the other two Rambler coaches being former NCAA Volleyball players themselves I'm sure they can relate. I'm glad to be back with the Ramblers and helping us win a National Championship.
All nostalgia and kidding aside, Easter Break was a welcome relief to the Ramblers after a stretch of six matches in a total of three different cities over just fourteen days. Since the last update we defeated the, at that time conference leading, No. 6 Lewis Flyers in a thrilling five-game match at home (24-26, 25-27, 25-19, 25-20, 15-12). The guys showed some incredible resilience by winning the last three games in a row after dropping the first two by the slimmest of margins. Mike Bunting and Joe Smalzer gutted out 18 and 26 kills, respectively, to lead the team to the big win.
Just three days later in Columbus, Ohio, the Ramblers suited up for an opportunity to extend our winning streak to seven matches, beat another nationally ranked opponent, and gain a crucial win against conference rival No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes on the nationally televised Big Ten Network. Unfortunately, the Ramblers ran out of steam losing a hard-fought three-game match (22-25, 20-25, 23-25) in the historic St. John Arena. Defensively, Peter Jasaitis led all players in the match with nine digs and currently holds the top digs-per-set average in the nation.
Despite the setback in the rustbelt, the Ramblers bounced back to win against soon-to-be conference opponent Lindenwood University in a convincing three games (25-15, 25-20, 25-11) last Wednesday. Dainis Berzins led all players with 13 kills on just 19 attempts, and, defensively, the Ramblers held the Lions to just a .087 hitting percentage for the match.
Looking forward, the Maroon and Gold travel to take on IPFW on Saturday in our last regular season match. IPFW dealt us a painful five game loss when they came to play in the Gentile Arena in February. The Mastodon-Rambler rivalry has always been heated and I am sure that the guys will come focused and ready to play.