Introducing a new sport to a college can be difficult. You need players, coaches, staff, a conference to compete in, equipment and more. It can take schools years to adequately develop and implement a new sport to their existing program. North Central recently completed this process in January of 2016 when the men’s volleyball team took to the court in their first game.
Now, finishing off their second season as the latest edition to the Cardinals’ sports program, the men’s volleyball team seems poised for a couple breakout years. Sophomore Ray Kraus, a setter for the team, discussed how it felt becoming a part of NCC sports.
“There wasn’t a pressure to succeed based on other sports, but it definitely set a standard,” said Kraus. “Our coach always talked about winning national championships; that’s the ultimate goal. At practice he’d point at the board and say ’31 National Championships, and we’re going to add to them.'”
The men’s team went 8-16 in their debut season but turned it around this year, ending with a 17-10 record and a strong fifth place finish in conference, up from ninth last year. While Kraus admitted there was slight disappointment, he felt the team performed well and showed great signs of improvement for the following years, especially given their collective age as players.
“We had a good year but still lost games we should have won. We could’ve competed in the tournament this year but things didn’t shake out that way,” said Kraus. “Our guys are all back next year whereas other teams will be losing players, so we’re definitely looking to make the national tournament next year and keep improving.”
Kraus strikes an important note about returning players; nobody on the men’s team is an upperclassmen. The roster is a combination of sophomores and freshmen, and they turned an 8-16 record to 17-10. This team is improving, and impressively so; the school may be adding a few trophies to the display in the Res/Rec lobby soon. It may sound like a stretch to some, but Kraus and the team don’t think so.
“Ultimately, of course, we want to win the national championship, and we know we’re capable of it. Even though we’re a new program, we know we aren’t outmatched—we can compete with the best,” said Kraus.
It certainly seems so. Whether the men’s volleyball wins the conference tournament next year or not, whether they make the national tournament or not, whether they win a national championship or not, it can be collectively agreed that they are a fine addition to North Central’s sports program.