When six new additions to his team began to settle in, Eric Tepel knew this men’s club volleyball team would enjoy different results with a transformed attitude this spring.
“My first two years, it was definitely a focus on, ‘Let’s have a good time. We are not here to win, just screw around and have a good time,’” said Tepel, a senior and the club’s president. “Last year we definitely changed the composure of the team. We obviously still have fun because we all enjoy playing.”
The men’s volleyball club is coming off one of its most successful seasons in the program’s history, winning the Mid-Atlantic Conference Tournament for the first time ever.
“We have six new players this year and four of the six have playing time on the court,” Tepel said. “They adjusted to the college level game faster than most players. This year we have six seniors, we knew going in that this was our year, that we could do some damage.”
Losing in the quarterfinals of the MAC tournament a year ago, Temple tied for ninth place.
A year later, the team went unbeaten through its regular-season conference schedule undefeated in the regular season with 16 wins. In the MAC finals on April 4, Temple met three-time reigning champion Messiah College.
Since losing to Messiah in a preseason tournament, Tepel said the Owls knew what their foe was capable of.
“It was just cool because Messiah is so good at everything they do,” Tepel said. “We knew it was going to come down to if we were to make it to the championship, we would play them.”
In the MAC championship final, Messiah won 26-24 in the first set and Temple won the next one, 25-21. In the final set, Temple came out on top, defeating Messiah 15-12.
The team is senior-heavy, but some new faces have contributed to the team’s recent success.
“You can’t really explain anything else, but the chemistry we have on the court,” freshman middle hitter Tyler Phifer said. “I think that is what has led us to the success we have had as a team.”
Phifer said the seniors were accommodating to the team’s newer players at the start of the season, but that a commitment was expected.
“The seniors told us they had high expectations, [and] we wanted to make their last season enjoyable,” Phifer said. “I was just happy we could leave the seniors with a legacy of going out on top. They have all been here for four years and it was a really good feeling to help them succeed and win the conference.”
Tyler said he is grateful for the seniors’ leadership, and that they will be tough to replace. Taking over the presidency next year will be sophomore vice president and outside hitter Chris Spano.
“I think we’ve got a bunch of great young guys,” Spano said. “Basically all I have to do is keep up with the precedent that Eric set for this team. We are just going to keep doing what we are doing and I think we will be fine.”
After missing last season because of a broken thumb, Spano said he has learned a lot about this team and how to lead them.
“We are just average guys that are hard working,” Spano said. “I will be the leader on the court. I definitely need to step up next year, become that guy.”
Spano said one of the reasons the team gets along well is that every person has a say with Tepel as president.
“We make decision as a team, mostly down to a vote and Eric gets the final say,” Spano said “I will carry that onwards, that democratic view on the team.”
Spano said the future looks bright after this season, but Tepel said he wants to make his senior year a memorable one.
“I told them I expect to go undefeated in the MAC and put a dent into the MAC tournament. We not only met our goals, but we exceeded them,” Tepel said. “We have a mentally tough team and it came from hard work and dedication at practices. I couldn’t be happier of my guys.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at email@example.com.