The Goshen College Men’s volleyball team looks to make drastic improvements as they launch their third season in history (and second season as a varsity team) this week.Last year was certainly a learning experience for the fledgling team. The Maple Leafs finished the season with an 8-21 record overall and an 0-8 record in conference play.
This year, the team is excited to get into their regular season schedule and see what kind of improvements they can make. In just one day, they will open the 2020 season with a road trip to Trinity Christian College.
Michael Wahl, a junior setter, has played in every single set in the team’s history. He says: “Our team has only grown and gotten bigger (since last year). With the addition of the incoming freshman we expanded our volleyball experience and knowledge which has made us a much better team.”
Christian Rodriquez, a sophomore from Puerto Rico, agrees that the team has seen a lot of growth since their 2019 season.
“We were a small team and the injuries played against us,’ Rodriguez says. “This new season, our team is prepared physically and mentally to assume our roles. Team chemistry is awesome–that will help us keep the energy up.”
This year the team’s goal is “to be the best we can be no matter what,” says Wahl. According to Rodriguez that would look like a 24-13 record.
Will Gaby, a junior Hesston transfer, says the team has some less-quantifiable goals as well. These include “being loud and talking on the court… having fun, and holding each other accountable.”
This year we are likely to see strong showings from both returning pillars like Wahl, Rodriguez and Alexander Rabadzhiev, as well as from new players.
Alexander Rabadzhiev, an OH (outside hitter) from Bulgaria, made an instant impact to the team when he joined last year. He was ranked second for kills in the NAIA in 2019, and now looks to improve upon his totals. He will no doubt continue to contribute greatly to the team.
Jim Daugherty, the men’s volleyball head coach, has been working hard to expand the team and hone the player’s skills. He added eight new players this year to assemble a 16-man roster.
Daugherty has coached the men’s volleyball team since its first game as a club team in 2018, but his experience at Goshen College goes back further than that. Before Goshen added men’s volleyball as a sport, Daugherty was the assistant coach for the women’s team for four years.
Daugherty is now aided by Assistant Coach Reanan Diaz, Volunteer Assistant Coach Tayler Eash and Manager Katherine Boyer.
Thursday will be the first game of the season for both the Maple Leafs and their opponent, the Trinity Trolls.
“Thursday is not necessarily about a win,” says Brayton Yoder, a first-year defensive specialist. “(It’s about) using this to see what kind of team we are and to know what our strengths are and what areas we can improve in.”
The Nappanee native adds, “we don’t know what to expect besides a very fun game! If you can’t make it out, I highly recommend livestreaming to see us in action!”
The first time you can catch the Maple Leafs at home is Saturday, January 18th in an exhibition game against Davenport University in Ruth Gunden Gymnasium.
“Come support the Men’s Volleyball team!” Rodriguez urges. “It will be a great year for our program, so bring your spirits to the game. We are very excited for this season!”