For the first time in 47 years, Indiana Tech men's volleyball will take the court tonight at the Schaefer Center.
This match has been more than a year in the making.The Warriors' athletic department announced in October 2018 it was adding men's volleyball and in December of that year brought in coach Kyle Shondell to lead the program that had been dormant since 1973.
Shondell has been preparing for tonight's match ever since, bringing in 10 players for the program's re-inaugural season and beginning to build a brand for Warriors men's volleyball.
The program will take its first public steps into a new era tonight when it plays Belmont Abbey, a Division II team that went 15-11 last season.
“They're champing at the bit, they're ready to go,” Shondell said of his players. “For a match that matters, we talk about first impressions, clean slate. This is the first ink on the paper.
“So they're excited. I don't think they feel overpressured, I think they're just going to play hard and compete, but you can just kind of sense, we haven't had to motivate them one time since they got on campus last week.”
Shondell, who previously spent four years as the women's volleyball coach at Huntington, headed out on the road immediately upon taking the job at Tech. He admitted Fort Wayne is not as much of a hotbed for men's high school volleyball as it is for women's, so he had to scour the country for players who would buy in to the work of building a program from scratch.
He came away with a roster that includes eight freshmen, including two – Daynte Stewart and Kersen Trim – from as far away as Caribbean nation Trinidad and Tobago.
The two players who have been part of a collegiate program in the past are redshirt freshman Chandler Davis, who transferred from Ottawa University in Kansas, and Chase Christiansen, a junior who spent two years at Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia. Christiansen, a Fishers native, is the only player from Indiana.
“The recruiting process was enjoyable for me, just to kind of spread my vision,” Shondell said. “Getting to talk to guys that wanted to be part of something from the ground up, wanted to be building blocks of the program.
“When you're recruiting for a program that's existed for a while, you have to weed out the wrong kind of guy. Starting a program weeded them out already. ... It's the ones that want to help you build that say yes.”
When Shondell speaks of his vision for the program, he's talking about getting it on par with the rest of the athletic department at Tech. In other words, he wants to win and win quickly.
“For the most part (at Indiana Tech), it's kind of national title or bust around here,” Shondell said. “You win your conference, that's great, but when does the national tournament start? While obviously we're a first-year program and we have expectations in check, I want to as quickly as possible get to a point where we are a nationally-prominent program competing for national titles.”
As the fledgling program takes the court for the first time in nearly half a century tonight, there is a connection with the teams that came before it. Shondell's grandfather, Don Shondell, the longtime coach at Ball State, co-founded the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA), of which Tech was a member from 1962 to 1973.
Indiana Tech vs. Belmont Abbey College
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Schaefer Center