This past weekend the Vassar College men’s volleyball team competed in the second of two United Volleyball Conference Crossover weekends. The number 12 nationally ranked men’s team improved to 6-3 on the season with a four game winning streak. Last week, senior libero Christian La Du managed to become the school’s all time leader in digs with 1001 and Senior Matt Elgin ’13 was just named the UVC player of the week for his performance.
A major transition this season is that this is the team’s first year with both a new head and assistant coach.Coach Robert Wolter began his first season with the men’s volleyball team this year as the 11th coach in program history. He took over from Jonathan Penn who previously coached both the men’s and women’s teams, but who now coaches the women’s team exclusively.
Wolter first worked at Wisconsin-Parkside and the Division II South Dakota State University. He was the Junior Olympic Head Volleyball Coach in Milwaukee, has directed the Southwest Elite Volleyball Club and has held various high school coaching positions.
Most recently, Wolter spent the past three seasons at Carthage College. He was a part of a coaching staff that boasts two American Volleyball Coaches Association Second Team All-Americans and the national Freshman of the year. His team, this past season, finished third in the Molten Invitational National Championships for a second straight year.
Coming to Vassar was a big decision and change for Wolter, but the school seemed the perfect fit for him. “The academic reputation that Vassar has speaks for itself and for me to be associated with that is an honor. When I was here for my interview and saw the campus I was in awe.” But beyond the campus he’s been impressed by Vassar’s facilities. “There are not many volleyball programs at any level, men or women, that have their own designated volleyball gym. Needless to say I was again, impressed and I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given.” Wolter was also drawn to a team who plays in a difficult conference. “We compete in one of the strongest conferences in the country and building this program into a contender in such a challenging conference can bring instant recognition and respect…to our program.”
Wolter is proud to be working with assistant coach Cole Tallman “His experience as a former head coach will help everyone associated with our program push one another to be the very best they can be,” he notes. “[W]e share the same values that I have instilled within the program and I have no doubt that we will work well with each other.”
So far Wolter has been able to adjust well to Vassar’s competitive schedule and the new location. “[It’s] been great. It started out rough…living 1000 miles away from my wife and son. They stayed back so my wife could finish her teaching position and sell our home…This past summer, we packed up all our belongings and moved the whole family to Poughkeepsie, NY. Now that we are all back under one roof, I’m much happier.”
This year’s team boasts a much larger roster than other years. It has been a welcome change to the team’s dynamic. Freshman Erik Halberg has been happy with the makeup of his team so far. “We have a really big roster and a lot of depth to our team…and that has been a major factor in everyone improving so rapidly.” As a freshman, the transition from high school to collegiate athletics can be huge. “The level of play is much higher,” he notes.
But Wolter has been helpful and encouraging to Halberg and his teammates. “Coach has been really accepting of our mistakes and hasn’t penalized us for not making the correct move or not reading the play. He’s always on the sideline encouraging us and spurring us on to move quicker and to improve our play,” Halberg added.
Returners seem satisfied with the team this year as well, despite all the changes they’ve faced. Konow has been particularly pleased with the dynamic Wolter has helped create on and off the court. “We’ve had the same core for a long time now and we play well together,” he commented. “[D]espite the fact that this is our largest team it also is probably the closest and most fun team we’ve had…this year our team feels like we can and should compete with every team in the country.”
Wolter has been improving on the already nationally competitive Brewers’ skills in order to help the team reach more success and hopefully reach their goal of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. “We’ve become a more aggressive and attack oriented team. Wolter puts a lot more emphasis on getting blocks and kills than our coaches in the past have and I think this should translate to continued success on the court.”
Wolter is ready and willing to help the Brewers achieve their lofty goals this season. “I want to thank Coach Penn for his efforts in building a nationally competitive program. He has provided a strong foundation and a talented team on which to build the future of the volleyball program at Vassar College. I look forward to continuing the evolution of the tradition, culture, and competitive success of Brewer volleyball…I am excited to be a part of the Vassar College family and community…I love this team! They work hard for each other. The last thing they want to do is to let their teammate down. The dynamics are great and we are one big family.”