Coming to school at 5:30 in the morning doesn’t sound like a great thrill for most people.
For Utah Valley’s men’s volleyball team, it’s worth the sacrifice.
Varsity team leader Michael Rogers is excited by getting a chance to play a sport he loves.
"I love being here, and I will probably be here until the end of my college career," Rogers said.
That’s because the men aren’t content on just showing up and having fun. They want to win.
"Our team is a great team with lots of potential, and the dedication is awesome," said coach David Richards.
It’s a squad that’s used to success, having won the national club title in 2001 and finishing third the next year.
The past few years haven’t been as successful, but Utah Valley still pull down decent results at nationals.
A home loss to Utah on Feb. 1 did little to dampen the title hopes for the Wolverines. One setback doesn’t concern Richards on the prospects for success in the national tournament: April 10-12 in Dallas.
"The week prior, we went down to Long Beach and lost two games (total)," Richards said.
There just isn’t one team that is doing well. A junior varsity team is in place that also travels and competes in the national tournament – albeit in Division III National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association level.
Being a member of the "B" side is nothing to gloss over either.
Christian Crabtree first worked his way through the practice team to team leader for the junior varsity side, and he knows what hard work can accomplish.
"It’s a lot of fun," Crabtree said. "My first two years were actually on the practice team. Last year was my first year with the JV team. We took third in nationals and it was really exciting."
With successful varsity and JV teams, there could be some thoughts of tension built on jealousy or lack of respect. That’s not the case, as the teams know the goal is to win, and competition allows the best to rise
"It’s good camaraderie between the ‘A’ team and the ‘B’ team," Crabtree said.
"We compete really well," Rogers said. "Everyone in the gym gets out early."
Having a chance to move up varsity is one goal. Also part of the allure is getting a chance to toughen up before the JV’s own matches.
Richards does get an ample chance to evaluate talent as both teams practice side-by-side.
"We have 11 players, and we’re looking for a 12th," Richards said. "If someone comes into the gym, and they have the talent and the dedication, they’ll move up. Right now we’re fine with 11."
With three tournaments left until nationals, the team’s early rising strategy hopes to pay off.strategy will hope to pay off.