The Team That Rallies
“Bump, set, spike!” Most Naz students became familiar with volleyball verbiage this year by hearing that phrase shouted on the court—and maybe even across the hallway.
Just call it the Golden Flyer Effect, a result of the men’s volleyball team going on a 22-match winning streak and claiming its first national title at the 2011 Molten Division III Men’s Invitational Volleyball Championship. Not too shabby for a team that got started seven years ago!
While Nazareth’s campus certainly worked itself into a fever pitch, what about the actual players? How did being on the team make an impact on their lives?
Billy Gimello ’12 (Hauppauge, N.Y.) said that his roles as outside hitter and co-captain have helped him develop skills necessary to lead the team to victory. A key to his success: confidence.
“In the volleyball world, I’m not that tall or big,” he explained. “So I walk on the court with confidence. That lets the other team know that I’m not fazed by them. We’re going to do everything to win.”
According to coach Cal Wickens, “Billy is built like a Sherman tank. He’s the most consistent passer in the country. He really delivers.”
Setter Connor Ecklund ’13 (Harrisburg, Pa.) said that his enthusiasm on the court matches his outlook on life at Naz. In fact, his habit of going crazy on great plays and diving after any ball, no matter how impossible it seems, has made him better known as Bug-Out Boy.
But don’t let the nickname fool you. “He’s a ‘Yes, sir’ kind of kid. All business,” Wickens said. “He gains experience and practices 110 percent every day.”
And when he’s off the court, Connor gives back to the community. He’s senator of the class council and a member of the academic advisement and the extracurricular subcommittees. Connor also referees games for the Special Olympics and represents the volleyball team in SAMS (Student Athlete Mentor Program).
Bring It On
The image of the final point in the championship game may be priceless, but the cheers and support haven’t gone to the players’ heads. One of the most valuable things Billy’s learned is that hard work pays.
“We dedicated a lot time to training and practicing,” he said. “And look where that got us!” His next goal? Take home the first ever NCAA Men’s Division III Volleyball Championship. So keep your purple face paint handy.