After three days of competition and close matches in Colorado, the Cal Poly Club Men’s Volleyball won the NCVF National Volleyball Championship and brought the title back to San Luis Obispo. The tournament took place April 18-20 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
Club president and business administration senior Kevin Hornbeak described the weekend as a wild event for the team. They made it to finals last year, but came up short with second place against San Diego State. This time around, Hornbeak said they were looking for revenge.
“We wanted to prove that we could do it and win the title,” Hornbeak said in a scratchy voice, still recovering from all the cheering and screaming over the weekend.
The first day of the tournament, Cal Poly competed and won in a pool of four teams. The second day they won in a pool of three teams, and the last day they were placed into a bracket against 16 other competing teams — single round elimination.
The last match was the most challenging for Cal Poly, according to Hornbeak.
“We lost the first set, I want to say 25 to 21, and then the second set we were down 20 to 12 and we came back and won 29 to 27… The third set we won 19 to 17,” Hornbeak said.
All three matches ended in close scores, but Cal Poly defeated University of Illinois with a winning block by political science sophomore and middle hitter Will Smith.
“You never think about the points that end games as ‘that’s everything that matters, that whoever got the last point is all that matters,’ but it still feels pretty nice,” Smith said.
The third and final set was at a score of 18 to 17. Both teams had been siding back and forth, already in extra points, Smith said. At the last serve Smith said he had to guess who the ball would be set to and that he guessed correctly. The middle hitter on the opposite side of the net took a hit, and he blocked it.
“I just turned around and smiled, and everyone in the stadium was screaming … It felt pretty good,” he said.
The victory continued for Cal Poly when opposite hitter and wine and viticulture senior Chris McDonough earned the title of all-tournament most valuable player (MVP) of the entire division.
“It was a great way for him to end his career,” Smith said. “The entire season had been up and down, and Chris has always been the rock on the team. I was super happy that was how he got his season to end and [that he] had that recognition.”
McDonough has been playing on the men’s volleyball club team since his freshman year, but he had to wait until the 2019 National Championship for his team to get first place — something he said they had been aiming for for the past four years.
“It was my last year, I wanted to give it my all and I knew that during the tournament I was playing the best volleyball I had played in my life,” McDonough said. “I was excited not just for me but for my entire team for winning at that point … I can’t do it on my own, it was my team that really pushed me to receive that award” he said.
McDonough said anyone on the team could have gotten the MVP award; they are all amazing players, and everyone played especially well over the weekend, he said.
About Men’s Club Volleyball
There are not many NCAA men’s volleyball programs offered, which is why the club team is a great way for men to continue playing volleyball into their college careers, Hornbeak said.
“[The club team] is a great way to keep playing the great sport guys enjoy,” Hornbeak said.
Hornbeak has been on the Cal Poly Men’s volleyball club team since his freshman year and just this year became the president.
Men’s Club Volleyball try-outs begin in the Fall, but the core of their season is from Winter to the beginning of Spring. Hornbeak said the team travels for a few different big tournaments, including to the Far Westerns, Las Vegas and varying locations for Nationals, as the location changes each year.