Miami University men's club volleyball after winning the National Championship Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Lauren Olson
By Lauren Olson, The Miami Student
The Miami men's volleyball team might not have a coach, matching uniforms and warm ups, an official team photo or experience with the 2015 standard men's volleyballs, but they left Kansas City, Missouri with a national title Saturday.
Miami triumphed over University of Virginia in two sets, 25-16 and 25-23. The RedHawks beat Loyola University, University of Kentucky and California State University - Fullerton en route to the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Division I AA National Tournament championship match.
The title is MU's first in program history and the only title won by a Miami club sport this year.
"Historically, we average one national championship a year," club sports director Mike Arnos said. "I think that club sports are defined by more than top 10s and national titles. The thing that makes them fantastic is that we've all striving toward those. To me, it continues to reinforce the great athletes that we have here, and the education piece that goes right along with something like this. Having them do all the work and be able to pull off national championships while they're learning how to finance, organize their club and be leaders - that's the perfect epitome of what club sports are."
Sophomore setter Ian McKenna was named MVP of Division I AA men's volleyball, while senior right-side Grant Heckmann was one of seven athletes to receive first team divisional honors.
"I was incredibly honored to win MVP title along with a national championship," McKenna said. "I'm so glad I could help get my team to where we wanted to be at the end of our season."
After losing their first match of the tournament to Navy Academy in a tie-breaking third set, the RedHawks did not drop another match for the rest of the three-day tournament.
"We were a little discouraged after our first match against Navy, and then against Nebraska," sophomore libero Aidan Leahy said. "Even though we ended up winning, we weren't playing anywhere near the level we could play at. Luckily, we had a few hours to get away from the court and regroup. Once we were a few points into the Cornell game, we knew we were playing at the level we should be playing at. We were looking like a new team."
The 10-man team totaled a 17-set win streak after the first day of play Thursday.
"They walked into the gym with full confidence in taking home the national championship title," vice president of women's club volleyball Abby Cramer said. "They had control of the game throughout the entire match."
After victories against Nebraska and Cornell, the team beat Western Michigan, Boston College and Oregon State Friday. The wins gave the 'Hawks a DI AA gold bracket berth for tournament play.
"I don't think, at any given time, that another team scored more than four or five points in a row against us," Leahy said. "And if that's how you're playing for an entire tournament, with the exception of the first game, you're going to win that tournament."
With one national title under their belts, the men's team strives to continue the success as they prepare for the upcoming season. The RedHawks lose only one senior, and the returners are already preparing for next fall.
"I think our goals for next season are focused on trying to treat every tournament like we treated nationals," Leahy said. "We came in feeling like we should win every game. We knew that we could absolutely win the tournament. They might look at us like a rag tag group of guys with no huge hitters, but ultimately, we want to be regularly competing with the Ohio State's and the Purdue's and the California teams. We want to give them competitive games in the future, and always have them on their heels."