It’s national championship or bust for the Indiana University of Pennsylvania men’s club volleyball team, according to its president, Alex Minnis (senior, early childhood special education).
Last year, the team ranked No. 1 overall in its bracket going into the final day of nationals in Kansas City. It ended up tying for fifth place after being defeated by Rochester Institute of Technology.
Minnis said the team’s expectations are as high as ever because everyone from last year’s team returns. He expects the team to compete for the National championship in Louisville, Ky., April 7-9.
The program has been around for 20 years and has won its Penn-Ohio Volleyball League championship five times. IUP has never won a national championship, but they have played in it before.
“There has been a history of some really good teams here,” Minnis said. “We’ve been good just never been able to win it.”
IUP is considered Division-I AAA due to the size of its student population, which makes it one of the smallest in its division. However, it plays Division-I teams such as University of Kansas and Georgetown University.
IUP will host a tournament Sunday at the Memorial Field House. The tournament consists of 17 teams, including Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University and Slippery Rock University. The tournament starts at 9 a.m. and playoffs will likely start around 3 p.m.
Admission is free, and the team is sponsoring a concession stand for anyone in attendance. The IUP women’s volleyball team will be line judges for the tournament.
“It’s going to be really good competition and a great fundraiser for us,” Minnis said. “We are running a concession stand, and parents are bringing a bunch of food.”
IUP’s fall schedule consists of four to five tournaments against D-I teams. The team will travel to James Madison University for a 24-team tournament and PSU for a 30-team tournament. The fall is considered preseason. However, it starts the ranking process for Nationals.
To get to Nationals, the team must get a bid by winning the POVL, finishing second, or paying $1,000 to get in as an unranked team.
“It’s cool to get IUP on the map,” Minnis said. “People are always looking at us and saying, ‘Who are those guys?’”
Minnis hopes the club continues with the groundwork the current team is putting down.
“Five years from now, if everyone is buying in and presidents are doing what they should be doing, this should be a nationally ranked D-1 team,” Minnis said.
“If we can get kids interested in coming here, we could compete with big schools for sure.”