Tim Folliard – Sports Editor
The 2021 NCAA Division III men’s volleyball championship was the first Division III championship since December 2019. We were selected to be a part of it through an at-large bid and made the most of it. As the 7 seed, we fell in the championship and came in 2nd place.
To accommodate the 12 teams participating, the tournament was moved from Rochester, New York to Salem, Virginia. All teams were placed in a bubble for the duration of their tournament. Prior to leaving for Virginia, teams must have been tested three times per week. While there, all players and team personnel were rapid-tested every day. No games were cancelled due to any positive tests and no players competing tested positive.
Eight of the twelve competing teams stayed at the Hotel Roanoke. At the hotel, there was a study area for student-athletes and each team had their own room for meetings and meals. The cost of the trip is fully covered by the NCAA.
All of the matches took place at the Salem Civic Center, which was about 15 minutes away from our hotel. The Civic Center hosted the men’s basketball team in 2016 when they competed in the NCAA Championship. During the past year, it has served as a vaccine and testing site.
Limited fans were able to attend with social distancing measures and masks requirements put in place throughout the arena. Southern Virginia University had the largest fan section as the school is only 45 minutes away. Benedictine still had a strong fan-base as a fair amount of Eagle fans made the 700-mile drive.
While in the bubble, we stayed pretty busy. Each night, there were team yoga sessions led by athletic trainer Bella Koenig and extensive preparation went into each match. On top of that, assignments still had to be done. Being a student still comes first!
Playing in the NCAA tournament was such a great experience. Heading into this season, it was still uncertain if we would play a full schedule. We were incredibly lucky and fortunate to play 20 games.