Senior Matt Elgin has been playing volleyball since the age of 14. He came to the sport almost by accident when a friend suggested it to him. “I knew I wasn’t going to make the soccer team….and I wasn’t very good at basketball so I thought I would try volleyball (at the suggestion of a friend). I’ve been hooked ever since.” It was a suggestion that turned out well for him, as the middle hitter from Farmington, NY has been one of the strongest performers for Brewers men’s volleyball all of his four years on the team.
Over the past four years, with Elgin at the helm, the Brewers have proven themselves to be one of the elite programs in Division III volleyball. Enjoying high rankings nationally, the men have worked hard to maintain and continue to improve their standings.
This has been due in large part to Elgin, who will be almost impossible to replace. Freshman outside hitter Erik Halberg agrees that Elgin has been key to the team’s past accolades. “He’s a really intelligent and quick player,” Halberg wrote in an emailed statemtent. “He’s been the backbone of our offense all year. He’s been really great at getting us hyped and motivated to play hard. He’s going to be really tough to replace next year.”
Since his freshman year, Elgin has been a part of the core group of starters for the Brewer men. This year’s team in particular has been wildly successful. “We’ve had a solid season so far,” Elgin stated. “We’ve always been ranked in the Top 15 nationally (we’ve been hovering at #10 for a month now) and were a couple of close losses away from being a Top 5 or 6 team. What we take away from that is that we can play with any team in the country…so overall I’m very proud of how we’ve played this season”.
Individually, Elgin has been having the best season of his career, but despite that he continues to try to improve each and every day. “I’ve been very happy with my play this year…statistically I am having the best season of my career,” he explained. “I worked really hard during the offseason to get in better shape and work on some technical aspects of my game…I believe I could have played better, especially during league games, and hopefully I’ll be able to step it up against our league opponents in playoffs.”
Looking forward, the team is hoping to do well this upcoming weekend during league playoffs. Elgin is particularly set on defeating NYU. “If you asked anyone on our team they would tell you our only goal is to win that first playoff game against NYU this Saturday. Whatever happens after that happens and we can worry about that then, but we need to focus on the present moment and prepare for that first step of the postseason. Individually it would be great to get All-American honors again, but that’s not what’s motivating me right now. I want to do everything I can to help our team get this next win.”
Volleyball has been an incredibly important part of Elgin’s life at Vassar College and has helped mold him into the person and player he is today. “I came in to this program a cocky, selfish kid,” he admitted. “Over the course of my career I’ve been expected to take on more and more of a leadership role which has forced me to change the type of player and person I am.”
Now with that selfish, cocky kid left behind, Elgin always questions what he can do to help make the team better and wonders how he can help achieve team goals before considering his own goals. “I realized just…how important it was that I did what I could for the guys at every level, both mentally and physically on and off the court. If you’re willing to look at yourself and your flaws and are comfortable stepping out of your comfort zone (which is by no means an easy thing to do) you can help your team in ways you never thought possible, and probably learn a thing or two about yourself in the process. Being a senior has just been another step in that journey to better myself to help the team.“
Elgin cites much of his own as well as his team’s success as a result. He is one of five seniors on this year’s team, many of whom comprise a core group of starters that have been together for the past four years. Therefore, the team dynamic has been relatively similar over the past few years. “This has enabled us to have great chemistry on the court, and that has certainly been one of our big advantages in close games,” Elgin wrote.
Elgin’s pre-match ritual has changed a bit. He used to play up the intensity and get as pumped up as possible and picture himself dominating other teams. “I found that it’s hard for me personally to maintain that level…for so long and my play would suffer as a result.” He now takes a more laidback and calm approach. “I know what I am capable of and go into games with a quiet confidence and let my play do the talking…I’ve found that listening to Disney songs while I am getting ready has helped take my mind off of things and keep me calm and collected until I need to turn it on at game time.”
Despite a grueling Volleyball schedule, Elgin has been a huge impact on the overall Vassar campus. He works with the History Majors’ Committee, has worked as a Peer to Peer counselor and has also been a member of the Vassar Symphonic Orchestra for the past three years.
Coming to the end of his four years at Vassar College, Elgin is nothing but grateful. “I’ve loved all four years and can’t imagine being anywhere else. The combination of academics, athletics and unique and fun social scene [is]…appealing. I[‘ve] been able to just be me here, something I think a lot of people at other colleges struggle with.”
Volleyball has been one of the biggest parts of Elgin’s life thus far. So much so that he plans to continue pursuing it in the future. “I am going to Europe to play professional volleyball this fall. I hope to play for a year or two and make a little money, then eventually bite the bullet and go to law school.”
Elgin’s leadership will be put to the test at the upcoming United Volleyball Conference Championships on Saturday, April 13 at Pittsford, NY against New York University. As this season is Elgin’s last with the Brewers, he looks to lead the team, alongside his fellow five seniors, to a strong finish for an all around solid season.