Men’s club volleyball at Williams?

Wouldn’t it be great if Williams had a men’s club volleyball team? Wait. They do, and they’ve played together in over five tournaments since September. With a core group of nine guys and a total interest of over 15, the club team has shown marked improvement since re-forming this fall after a one-year hiatus.

With the help of seniors Jonathan Hatoun ’03 (OH) and Tony Ham ’03 (S), the underclassmen have refined their raw talent and are displaying awesome prowess on the court. They have easily surpassed the seniors’ highest expectations and will be an electrifying team to watch in coming years.

Ashok Pillai ’05 (DS) and Vladimir Andonov ’05 (OH) have worked as a dynamic front-row back-row combination throughout the season. Ashok brings colorful hair and an uncanny knowledge of where the ball is going to fall to the back court, while Vlad offers his remarkable ability to put the ball through the block and an interesting set of confusing, yet inspiring words of encouragement throughout the match.

Rookie Matthew Teschke ’06 (OH), undoubtedly the most volleyball-obsessed man on campus, brings his bone shattering Pennsylvanian power to the outside hitter position, and the team can rely on Matthew Hsieh ’06 (OH) to come off the bench for similar results at the outside spot. Reed Harrison ’06 (MB) and Zach “Silent Ninja” Weisser ’06 (MB) have each been an impenetrable force in the middle all season. Both vastly outsize, out-jump and out-hit anyone across the net and only continue to get better. Payap “Gob” Pakdeelao (DS) has been the best (and shortest) libero to wear the purple jersey since the position was created, and his extremely high levels of enthusiasm always keep the team juiced.

The team is arguably the most diverse athletic team on campus, with members representing Thailand, Ill., Sweden, Penn., Bulgaria, Mass., Taiwan and Vt. Among the players, six different languages are spoken, sometimes simultaneously. During tournaments, the team impresses opponents with their ability to communicate with each other (and sometimes their inability as well).

With minimal sponsorship from College Council, the team barely manages to enter all the tournaments it qualifies for. Instead of having organized, school sponsored vans, these men wake up sober at 5 a.m. on the weekends, squeeze into two little sedans and drive in the wicked snow for three hours to Amherst, MIT, Dartmouth, University of New England and Sienna. Instead of having a coach, they depend on senior leadership from Hatoun and Ham. Instead of using white boards for plays and lineups, they figure out plays and lineups on the back of a piece of paper towel the night before the tournament.

However, what these men do have is fun, laughs, good subs for lunch, sleepovers at Wellesley and talent. In the past six months, the team has not only grown together to form a cohesive unit, but also a good group of friends. Even though only four men have previously played organized volleyball, the big improvement the team has shown since September reflects talent and athleticism. They practice routinely and occasionally have the welcome company of the varsity women’s volleyball team.

For instance, at the team’s first tournament in October at UMASS-Amherst, the team showed the ability to adapt to six-man rotations without any prior practice. Even with little experience, the team is quick to learn and win. In this tournament, the team scrambled through the rotation during the first three games but by the fourth game, the team managed to stand up to their strong opponents by focusing, passing well, and getting three touches. By the end of the day, the team actually pulled out a win over currently top-ten ranked Providence College.

By February, the team had improved enough to capture fourth place in their division of eight teams. The team participates in the west division of the New England Club Volleyball League, which has the top three seeded teams in the league.

During the most recent tournament at Dartmouth, the team played against schools like Sienna College, Dartmouth, UMass Amherst and UConn. UMass Amherst and UConn are both ranked nationally in the top 20 among club teams. By the end of the day, the team finished 1-3 but nearly stole a win over UMass Amherst and UConn, with margins of only four points.

Because the team is always looking to expand and improve, any interested players should contact 06mct or 06msh. New players with or without prior experience are welcome, especially those from exotic places of the world.

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