A lot of work the Loyola men’s volleyball team puts in before a match largely goes unnoticed. The high flying serves and thunderous blocks take countless hours of sprinting in a hot gym after a match and lifting weights early in the morning.
Loyola head coach Mark Hulse said he’s always prioritized getting the team into the best shape possible. Early morning practices, late night weight lifts and practicing for hours on the beach are some of the ways Hulse gives his team a physical edge night in and night out.
“We want the guys just to go and go 100 miles per hour, mentality wise,” Hulse said. “80-90 percent of the time, the team works out together.”
Hulse said the important aspect of training is managing the workload of players to prevent injury. The players are constantly working with the assistant athletic trainer for men’s and women’s volleyball, Peter Higbie. Higbie said he does everything he can to keep the players loose and ready for every game, such as utilizing the hot tub in the training room.
“Before practices and games I see a good 80 percent of the guys in the training room,” Higbie said. “They’re coming in doing some stretching, some foam rolling … we have the hot tub in the training room, it’s a good way for them to start their day and get going.”
Training in the gym or on a treadmill is only half the battle, getting the most out of training depends heavily on a steady and healthy diet, according to junior middle blocker Kyle Piekarski. Standing at 6-foot-8, Piekarski said he has to have a diet that reflects his size. Piekarski said his training heavily relies on having easy access to food as he will constantly snack before, during or after workouts to promote muscle growth. He said during his first year, dining on campus was a “go-to” and the team could always go and eat there together.
“We go to the gym early … always snack after the gym or before lifts,” Piekarski said. “When I was an underclassman, I would always go to Damen and it wasn’t bad just go to the salad bar and cook something up.”
Piekarski said the work the team puts in during the offseason is what gives the players an edge during the regular season. Loyola will often work out and practice on beaches to build muscle as the sand makes movement more difficult.
“[The offseason] is a little different training wise because there are no matches,” Piekarski said. “‘Fun’ is an interesting word to talk about the beach. It’s an experience, it’s a whole team effort.”
Senior opposite hitter Dane LeClair said the Ramblers always train together throughout the day. He said the players are always hitting the weights together as a team and work out over the offseason together to build up communication and team chemistry. The hardest part of volleyball is getting up to the net countless times throughout a match, according to LeClair. He said everyone works with athletic trainers and coaches to get their vertical leaps as high as possible.
Higbie said the hardest part of training is maintaining the same level of intensity day in and day out. Games on the road or any back-to-backs prove to be quite a challenge for the training staff as those kinds of games put a lot of stress on the body and are where injuries occur most, according to Higbie.
“I have some tools and stuff that I’ll take on the road,” Higbie said. “It gets a little more tricky [on the road] because we don’t have quite the same resources that we do on campus.”
Despite the difficulty of being a student athlete, Hulse and Higbie praised everyone’s dedication to improvement. The volleyball season can seem endless due to the daily grind of being a student-athlete, but the team has maintained its intensity during daily training, according to Hulse.
The Ramblers are scheduled to continue their season April 5 when they take on Lindenwood University at Gentile Arena. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the match will be broadcasted on ESPN3.