Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

University of Rhode Island Men’s Club Volleyball Team Celebrates First National Championship

URI Men's Volleyball Team

After a remarkable three decades of consecutive winning seasons, the University of Rhode Island men’s club volleyball team made history in April by capturing their first-ever national championship. This victory was achieved in the IAAA division at the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) Championships, marking a significant milestone for the team and the university.

Triumphing Over Adversity

The URI volleyball team showcased their resilience and determination by avenging their only loss in the NCVF Championship. They secured the triumph by defeating George Washington University in the finals, with a score of 29-27, 18-25, 15-12. This victory was even sweeter as it came after a defeat against the Colonials the day before.

Senior tri-captain Jack Vaccaro expressed his awe at the team’s accomplishment, stating, “To beat a team as good as GW took near perfection. I was somewhat incredulous when it was over. It speaks to the level of focus and heart this team had, in order to overcome an incredibly daunting opponent.”

URI Men's Volleyball Team Celebrating

Stellar Performances

The championship win was a proud moment for Vaccaro, as well as his teammates James Fagan and Justin Conover, who all hail from South Kingstown, the town where the university is located. Vaccaro, who played a crucial role as the team’s setter, was named to the all-tournament team. Alongside him were sophomore defensive specialist Justin Conover and freshman outside hitter Max Waltzman. James Fagan, a sophomore outside hitter, was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

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Fulfilling a Dream

For Vaccaro, Fagan, and Conover, representing URI on the volleyball court was a dream come true. Having grown up in the shadow of the university, this victory held a special significance for them. Vaccaro shared his sentiments, saying, “This was something I dreamed about from the time I started playing as a 12-year-old. It’s unheard of for a university from the smallest state to win this tournament. It was really special to me, being a native of the state and the town in which URI is located.”

Overcoming Personal Loss

Vaccaro played in the tournament with a heavy heart, having lost his grandfather just two days before departing for Denver. With unwavering determination, he said, “I wanted to win this for him and for my family.” His family was present to witness his remarkable performance in the Mile High City.

Exceptional Leadership

Team coach Justin Holden praised Vaccaro’s exceptional leadership, stating, “I’ve been blessed with great players and great captains in the six years I’ve helmed the team, but Jack is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of his focus and determination. His leadership permeates the team and has made this season above and beyond the best.”

Overcoming Challenges

The Rams faced the national championships with a short-handed roster. Captains Joe Honig and Nik Thommes had both suffered ankle injuries during the regional championships held in early April. While Honig was able to play in a limited capacity, Thommes was unable to join the team. Freshman Matt DaSilva stepped up and replaced Thommes in the lineup.

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DaSilva, who primarily played on URI’s second team known as the “Baby Rams,” consisting mainly of freshmen and sophomores, proved to be an important player during the championships. Coach Holden commended several players for their standout performances, including Fagan and Waltzman, who formed a formidable one-two punch, and Conover, who delivered an outstanding performance in the finals against GW.

A Perfect Season

The national championship served as the culmination of URI’s stellar season, during which they dominated the New England Collegiate Volleyball League (NECVL). With a perfect 15-0 record, they triumphed over notable schools such as the University of Connecticut, Colombia University, Bryant University, and Providence College. The team’s chemistry, defensive prowess, size, and speed played vital roles in their success.

Celebrating Success

Managed by URI’s Department of Campus Recreation, the 18 club sports teams at URI are responsible for raising funds for their regular and postseason activities. To cover the expenses of attending the NCVF Championships, the men’s volleyball team raised close to $12,000 through crowdfunding, on-campus fundraisers, and donations from alumni.

While the club teams do not compete in NCAA contests, the URI Athletic Department takes immense pride in the success these teams have achieved on a national stage in recent years. Coordinator of Club Sports Joe Wilbur commended the men’s volleyball team and other club teams, saying, “The hard work and dedication they have shown to their respective sports has certainly paid off. They have represented URI exceptionally well, and I look forward to working with them to perpetuate this level of success.”

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FAQs

Q: How many championships has the University of Rhode Island men’s club volleyball team previously won?

A: Prior to their historic win in April, the University of Rhode Island men’s club volleyball team had not won any championships.

Q: Who was named the tournament’s most valuable player?

A: James Fagan, a sophomore outside hitter, was named the most valuable player of the tournament.

Q: How did the URI men’s volleyball team raise funds for the NCVF Championships?

A: The team raised funds through crowdfunding, on-campus fundraisers, and generous donations from alumni.

Conclusion

The University of Rhode Island men’s club volleyball team’s national championship victory is a testament to their unwavering dedication, skill, and teamwork. This historic achievement is a source of immense pride for the players, coaches, and the university community. With exceptional leadership, stellar performances, and a perfect regular season, the Rams have left an indelible mark on URI’s volleyball legacy.