Five years into the Milligan College men’s volleyball program, head coach Doneva Bays saw the first class of seniors that had been in the program for four years come and go.
Now, it is another growing process.
“Last year we had five seniors, which was our big class,” Bays said. “Four of them came in as freshmen and played all four years. We’re still a club sport at Milligan. We have one senior this year and we’re pretty young this season.”
The season did not start off as well as the team would have preferred, falling 3-0 to Bluefield College last week. Bluefield fields a varsity team and has a deeper group than the Buffs. The Milligan team is a club sport, which means it is not directly affiliated with the national athletics governing body that Milligan falls under, the NAIA.
“We definitely have a molding project with the team this year,” assistant coach Kylie Whaley said. “We kind of have to start over from square one and rebuild. They’re not all completely new to the sport, though.”
Some team members picked up the sport not long ago. For example, junior middle back Luke Dove came to Milligan for soccer and walked on to the volleyball team. He played recreationally, but did not play competitive until he got to college.
“I played basketball, soccer and tennis in high school, so I was very sports-minded,” said Dove. “I knew what I was doing athletically. One day, Coach Bays called me up and asked if I wanted to play. I’ll play any sport, so I said yes. It was a real growing process. I was thrown in the fire the first week and started. I barely knew what I was doing.”
The inexperience for the Buffs will obviously be a disadvantage this year, but the athleticism amongst the players is better than in previous years.
Outside hitter Dalton Smith, who played libero last season, comes in as one of the most experienced players on the team despite being only a sophomore. Smith played throughout high school and in summer leagues in his home in Oakland, Tennessee.
“Since my brother played on the team last year, we’d be right next to each other on the serve receive,” Smith said. “My brother was able to help me develop more overall as a player. I was never a good specialist, but having him help me out during games, distinguish what I am supposed to do as the libero and what he was doing on the outside ....”
Overall, it may take a couple of years, but the Buffs have a bright future ahead of them in men’s volleyball.
The next home game for the Buffs will be against Campbellsville (Ky.) University on Wednesday, Feb. 7 beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The team will also take on several other schools with club teams, such as the University of Tennessee, Appalachian State and the University of Kentucky.