The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh men’s volleyball team used steady play in its first eight matches and then provided an overpowering performance in the final match to take home the Division I National Collegiate Volleyball Federation National Championship over the weekend (April 3-5) in Reno, Nevada.
With its win, the Titans have now won four collegiate club Division I national titles.
UW Oshkosh (48-8) entered the 48-team tournament as the #5 seed and faced James Madison University (Va.) in its opening match of its initial pool. The Titans rolled to a 25-14, 25-20 victory behind the seven kills of Shane Heyrman (Jr. – Green Bay) and 21 assists and three service aces of Travis Hudson (So. – Wauwatosa). Tyler Range (So. – Kenosha) added six kills and Jake Ahnert (Jr. – Burlington) had two blocks.
The Titans hit .543 as a team in its 25-12, 25-16 second round victory over Grand Valley State University (Mich.). Range had five kills on five attempts and Ahnert added five kills on a .714 hitting percentage. Hudson added 19 assists and three blocks, Steve Brunelli (Gr. – Greenfield) tallied four kills and Erik Harke (Sr. – Kimberly) added four digs.
In a battle for first place in the opening pool, UW Oshkosh blew a 19-13 lead in set one and started down 5-0 in set two before kicking it back in gear with tough blocking and serving in a 23-25, 25-18, 15-8 victory over #20 California Polytechnic State University.
Wesley Morioka (So. – Chicago, Ill.) led the Titans with 10 kills on a .600 hitting percentage and added four digs and two service aces. Brunelli provided four service aces and Heyrman slammed down eight kills. Hudson provided 24 assists, four blocks and five kills, Range led the team with six blocks and Mike Wamboldt (Fr. – Pleasant Prairie) had five digs. UW-Oshkosh had six blocks in the deciding third set and had five kills on five attempts to dominate the Mustangs and capture their opening pool for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons at the national championship.
On Friday, the Titans needed to finish first or second in its second pool to advance to the single elimination Gold Bracket on Saturday. The Titans pulled out a big comeback in set one and then survived a tight third set to beat #21 San Diego State University (Calif.) 25-23, 21-25, 15-11.
Trailing 14-8 in set one, the Titans got a spark from Adam Landgraf (So. – Kenosha) off the bench as UW-Oshkosh went on a 17-9 run to cap off the turnaround. After losing the second set, the Titans found themselves tied at 10-10 in the deciding frame before Brunelli went on a four-point service run to help UW Oshkosh to a 14-10 advantage. After a San Diego State University side-out the Titans finished the match.
In a balanced attack, Ahnert and Morioka each had five kills and Heyrman, Hudson and Range each had four put aways. Tyler Wiedenhoeft (Jr. – Mequon) led the team with eight digs and Range topped the team with three blocks.
In its second match, UW Oshkosh let #12 Arizona State University stick around in the first set before surviving 26-24 and then overpowered the Sun Devils in set two 25-17. The Titans finished the match with 30 kills and hit .461 on 52 attempts. Brunelli finished with seven kills and Ahnert had six kills on eight attempts. Hudson dished out 27 assists and added five blocks, Ahnert totaled five blocks and Morioka and Wiedenhoeft had six digs each.
In a rematch of last year’s national quarterfinal match, the Titans again got the upper hand of #23 University of Arizona in a 25-19, 25-16 victory to start Saturday’s action. UW Oshkosh piled up 29 kills and hit .568 to offset 12 serving errors. Hudson ran the offense with 24 assists as Heyrman and Range each had seven kills.
In the quarterfinals UW Oshkosh faced #13 California State University, Fresno for the first time since the 2009 national championship match and came away with 25-22, 25-22 victory. Ahnert led the team with six kills on six attempts and the Titans came up big at the net with 12.5 team blocks.
Reaching the semifinals for the fourth straight year, UW Oshkosh faced a familiar foe in #9 Illinois State University. The Titans were 1-2 against the Redbirds heading into the match and weathered a back and forth affair to claim an emotional 25-14, 23-25, 15-13 victory to head to the title match for the sixth time in team history.
Heyrman and Range each had nine kills and Ahnert went seven for seven in kill attempts to lead the Titans. Hudson led the Titans with 28 assists and Wiedenhoeft scooped up eight digs. Harke added five digs, Range added three blocks and Ahnert, Hudson, Eddie Keesecker (So. – Itasca, Ill.) and Morioka each had two stuffs.
UW Oshkosh had its most dominating match of the tournament on a national stage by overwhelming #3 University of California, Irvine 25-10, 25-16. The Titans keep the Anteaters at bay with aggressive serving and timely blocking at the net. UW Oshkosh only had three service errors and did not commit a receiving error, blocking error or ball handling error.
Range led the Titans with eight kills and five blocks and Hudson piled up 19 assists and three blocks. Morioka totaled seven digs and two service aces, Heyrman had four blocks and Ahnert had three blocks as the Titans had nine team blocks in the win.
Over the course of the last 10 years the Titans have now claimed four Division I national championships and have finished second twice and third on two occasions.
“What an amazing experience this was this weekend,” said head coach Brian Schaefer. “I really do not think this victory has sunk in to not only me, but also for the players. We played extremely loose for a very young team. They believed in each other, played hard for each other and now they have a memory that will last a lifetime. I am honored to be the coach of these fine young men.”