Loyola’s men’s volleyball team has created a culture of greatness that transcends even major changes.
This culture can be seen in the programs of the Golden State Warriors, the Alabama Crimson Tide, the New England Patriots and other great teams across the country. Winning has become the norm, and the Ramblers are doing their best to get their name on that list.
Loyola has had top-tier talent from the beginning. Former head coach Shane Davis, who played with the Ramblers from 2000 to 2003 — the program’s fifth year in existence — was a three-time all-conference player at Loyola and was captain for three years. Davis, now the head coach for the Northwestern University women’s volleyball team, said he thinks there has been a spirit of competitiveness from the start of the program.
“It was a good culture,” said Davis. “It was a hard-working, committed culture — kind of a family, a brotherhood. There aren’t huge differences from when I played to where it is now.”
Davis said he believes that a culture of greatness extends into players’ lives off the court.
“It’s so much about what you’re doing every day off the court to better yourself and your program,” Davis said. “I think I took it to another level once I took over [as a coach] … On the side of parents … you’re telling the parents that when your son goes to Loyola … he’s going to grow to be a man. I think that goes a long way.”
One indicator of a good program is the ability for a team to adjust to change without losing its focus and determination. New head coach Mark Hulse has been a driving force in overcoming change. Although it came as a surprise that Davis was leaving his position here at Loyola, Davis said he is confident he left Loyola in a good place.
“I always say to leave a place better than you found it,” Davis said. “I think I did that at Loyola. Mark is going to do a great job. The culture will be there. They’ll keep that thing going.”
The team is just as competitive as it was under Davis, according to Hulse, which is proof to him that the program as a whole is thriving.
“We told the guys … we’re not looking to change anything,” said Hulse. “If I got hit by a car tomorrow, I’m sure … nothing would change. The machine is moving, and we like the way it’s going.”
Hulse said he’s confident the winning atmosphere around the team will only get stronger.
“It takes time to build a program,” Hulse said. “The volleyball team has a tremendous amount of support from the administration … and students. Whether we win or lose, we try to do the same things. The wins and losses handle themselves. It’s all about working hard every day.”
The team finally reached the pinnacle of success in 2014, after defeating Stanford in the NCAA National Championship. In 2015, it remained at the top after overcoming Lewis University. The team is making an effort to stay there. Senior middle blocker Nick Olson has been a part of both championship runs and has seen the program mature.
“When I first came in, the biggest piece was putting in your individual work … in the classroom, in the weight room,” said Olson, a native of New Berlin, Wisconsin. “Now we still have that piece, but I think we’ve added [perspective]. We understand it’s a growing process … finding weaknesses and turning them into strengths.”
The team’s greatest strength is its résumé. Riding a six-game winning streak while not losing a set in the streak, the team has set itself up for a bright season. While the team will always be changing, with a culture of greatness in place, in the words of DJ Khaled, “all [we’ll] do is win.”