The Loyola men’s volleyball team has three players on its roster who sat out last season. Now, they can finally move out of the practice gym and into game action.
These players — outside hitters Cole Schlothauer and Andrew “Doug” Lyons and middle blocker Danny Farrell — took what’s called a redshirt year. A player can redshirt in any sport and when they do, they remain on scholarship and practice with their team, but don’t play in games. When a player redshirts, they can be at the school for five years and are eligible to play for four seasons.
A player can take a redshirt year for many reasons. Some take a year off due to a season-ending injury while others redshirt to develop as a player before entering eligibility.
The redshirt year provided opportunities for these players to develop through an extra year of practice with the team without sacrificing a year of playing eligibility, according to Loyola head coach Mark Hulse. The players can learn Hulse’s playing style through practice and observe the speed of the game from the sideline.
“It gives them some purpose to their freshman year,” Hulse said. “It gives them some freedom and some clarity — you’re not going to be ready to get on that court yet but you can find your role with a whole lot of purpose.”
The most successful player of the bunch has been Schlothauer, who has played in every match this season after adjusting to the intensity of collegiate play during his redshirt year.
“The biggest thing that I did [during the redshirt year] was just catching up to the speed of the game,” Schlothauer said. “That was the biggest difference that I noticed between high school, club teams, and then coming here. All these guys are on a completely different level.”
Schlothauer has played in 29 sets this season and leads the team with an average of 3.66 kills per set, 1.72 digs and .38 aces.
Farrell has also had a lot of success on the court this season, leading the team in blocks, averaging .96 per set in the 27 sets he’s played.
Lyons has played in 29 sets this season and found the most success during the Jan. 25 game against Urbana University, where he recorded career-highs with five kills and two aces.
The life of a redshirt player doesn’t look much different from that of other players on the team. Redshirt players still attend daily workouts and get reps at practice. The only difference is they can’t play in games, per NCAA rules.
While they still attend games and cheer on their teammates Fridays and Saturdays, the game day schedules of these players are different.
Because they know they won’t be playing that evening, the redshirted players are able to practice and lift more in the morning. They have the opportunity to push themselves harder than the rest of the team because they have more time to develop their skills, according to Hulse.
“[These players] are actually able to improve on a higher rate,” Hulse said. “They get more workdays in because they don’t have to worry about being fresh on game days.”
There are also off-court benefits to taking a redshirt year. Lyons, who was named to the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Academic All-Conference Team during the 2019 season along with Schlothauer and Farrell, is planning on majoring in accounting or finance. He was interested in the five-year Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Loyola, and redshirting allowed him to attend another year of classes so he could finish his degree while also playing a full career of volleyball.
“That’s part of the reason why I redshirted,” Lyons said. “Last year, when I knew I wasn’t going to play, I could redshirt and try and get pretty good at volleyball, as well as get my MBA in five years.”
While there may be many benefits to the redshirt year, the players are excited to finally have the chance to play and contribute during games for a change.
“It’s a lot better [to be playing] and actually a lot more interesting in everything we do,” Farrell said. “We have film sessions that I’m actually a part of now.”
Hulse said he’s also excited to see how Lyons, Schlothaeur and Farrell develop in their first year playing and throughout the rest of their collegiate careers.
“Now they get a chance to shine in what might have been their sophomore year but it’s their first year,” Hulse said. “And with three more years ahead of them, I think the future’s pretty bright.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to wrap up non-conference play with a match at George Mason University Jan. 29. First serve is set for 6 p.m. CST.