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Club Sports: Men’s volleyball team wins national championship

Isaac Lorton | Thursday, April 12, 2012

The words “national championship” resonate for all athletes and sports fans, speaking directly to the desire to be on top.

The No. 1 Irish earned their place at the top this weekend by capturing the title of Div. I national champions at the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation [NCVF] championship in Kansas City, Mo., on April 7. Notre Dame (34-7) finished a grueling weekend with a 2-0 (25-23, 25-2) victory over UC Berkeley.

Success is not uncommon for the Irish. Last year in the NCVF championships, Notre Dame fell short in the title game and took second place. Team leaders said the title-game loss provided the Irish with motivation this year.

“It feels great to get the win,” junior outside hitter Rob Bauer said. “We came in second last year and had a chip on our shoulder. We had something to show, and we wanted to prove to ourselves we could do it this year.”

The Irish had their hands full in the championship game this season, however, with a tough opponent in Cal.

“This capped off a winning season the best way possible,” senior setter and Josh Rehberg said. “This showed our hard work throughout the season paid off.”

Notre Dame proved its determination during the final day of the national tournament with three three-set matches Saturday.

“The most impressive thing this weekend was how we dealt with adversity,” sophomore libero Liam Gallagher said. “We lost our first set to Indiana, and it is hard to come back from that, but we did it.”

The championship year brought two extra honors for Bauer, as he earned the titles of NCVF Player of the Year and tournament MVP on Saturday.

“I really want to thank my teammates,” Bauer said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have gotten to the championship game, and I wouldn’t have won this award. It is because of them, not me, that I won this award. I wasn’t happy with how last year ended, so I went out there to prove we could win the national championship.”

Bauer earned high praise from his team captain Rehberg.

“Rob definitely earned it and carried us through the tournament,” Rehberg said. “Whenever we needed a point, he came up big.”

Gallagher brought home another accolade for Notre Dame by earning All-Team honors.

“I am absolutely honored to be recognized,” Gallagher said. “One of the deciding factors of All-Team honors is the captain or coach vote. I am happy Rehberg saw me as a contributor and it means a lot coming from someone I respect.”

Gallagher was deserving of the award, Rehberg said.

“Liam is one of the best defensive players I’ve ever played with or seen playing club,” he said. “He had two amazing digs in the championship game, which were some of the best I’ve seen.”

The Irish have a motto of “All we do is block and dig,” which understates the team’s offensive prowess and puts a focus on defense.

“Our defense definitely improved from last year and contributed a great deal to this year’s success,” Bauer said.

On a student-run club without a paid coach, Gallagher said he gives credit to the cohesiveness of the team.

“I am just so happy that we won for all of my friends who are seniors,” Gallagher said.

The Irish prepare to lose three of their starting seniors – Rehberg, middle blocker Steven Walsh and opposite hitter Tom Johnson – but look forward to next year’s campaign with an eye on the repeat.

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu