When Maryland Japanese Shore volleyball participant Shanti Ramdeen and her teammates — together with another student-athletes — have been summoned to the college’s athletic complicated for an announcement final week, nobody was sure what was about to occur.
Ramdeen, a junior center from Austin, Texas, stated they have been simply advised to indicate up.
“Once we bought there, we have been fairly confused as to what was happening,” she stated. “When the information broke, there have been gasps. I do know a whole lot of my teammates have been … all people simply bought loud. My teammates have been actually excited.”
Certainly one of her teammates, she stated, set free an audible — and loud — “Wow!”
The UMES program, which is able to start play within the Northeast Convention within the 2025-26 season, was one among two public universities to announce the addition of males’s volleyball inside a one-week span. Northern Kentucky adopted. The Norse additionally will start enjoying in 2025-26, and this marked the primary time in additional than twenty years that public universities added males’s volleyball.
UMES made additional historical past by changing into the primary Division I traditionally Black faculty (HBCU) so as to add males’s volleyball.
Wade Garard was at UMES to listen to the gasps and the “wows” from the assembled college students for the announcement. He known as it the best a part of the occasion. And Garard’s group, First Point Volleyball, performed no small half in serving to each of the brand new packages get off the bottom.
When First Level Volleyball launched seven years in the past, its said mission was to develop alternatives within the sport for males in any respect ranges. Since First Level’s inception in 2016, 10 states have sanctioned boys highschool volleyball, and 40 faculty males’s packages have been began, with UMES and NKU being the most recent.
Serving to develop the sport for minority males has been one other key a part of First Level’s mission. To that finish, in 2019, First Level gave $600,000 and USA Volleyball $400,000 for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Convention so as to add six males’s volleyball packages: Central State, Edward Waters, Fort Valley State, Benedict, Kentucky State and Morehouse.
All are traditionally Black faculties.
Maryland Japanese Shore acquired a $250,000 grant: $100,000 from USA Volleyball and $150,000 from First Level. Donors resembling East Coast Volleyball additionally pitched in to make the UMES program occur.
Northern Kentucky, in the meantime, acquired a complete of $100,000 from First Level, USA Volleyball, East Coast and different donors. The bigger quantity UMES acquired, stated Garard, co-founder and CEO of first level, included help companies that profit the college’s ladies’s workforce as nicely.
Ramdeen, whose Hawks certified for the MEAC event this weekend, is worked up concerning the prospects of what volleyball can don’t just for UMES however for HBCUs throughout the board.
“I do know lots of people who really feel — not essentially misplaced — however I really feel like an HBCU brings a unique sort of setting, particularly for minorities,” she stated. “And I really feel prefer it’s nice to introduce volleyball into that as nicely as a result of I do know a whole lot of males’s volleyball gamers that I’m buddies with that needed to go to an HBCU however have been by no means actually given that chance as a result of there isn’t that many HBCU volleyball packages.
“It’s going to open up new alternatives for everyone of each coloration. It’s nice, and I really feel wonderful to be part of it, actually.”
Tara Owens, vp of athletics and recreation at UMES, had first-hand data of the thrill and alternative males’s volleyball may convey to a campus. She was the athletic director at Central State when the SIAC made males’s volleyball a part of its menu.
She had a front-row seat as Central State captured the inaugural convention title.
“It was a fantastic alternative for us (at Central State) to supply college students an introduction to a extremely popular sport and provides our college students who didn’t play one other sport a chance,” stated Owens, who got here to UMES in September 2022. “Central State, the SIAC, I assumed it was a daring transfer then, and we benefitted from it tremendously.
“That was one thing that was an exquisite expertise for the campus as a complete.”
Owens introduced the concept of a males’s volleyball program along with her to Maryland Japanese Shore.
“Due to my expertise at Central State College previous to coming to the College of Maryland Japanese Shore, I introduced males’s volleyball as much as my president (Heidi M. Anderson) and I shared along with her that I assumed it will be a fantastic alternative for us to reinforce our athletic program on the boys’s aspect,” Owens stated.
St. Francis (PA) males’s coach Mike Rumbaugh, who’s getting into his twenty sixth season with the Pink Flash, was happy with the addition of UMES to the NEC and with what it may imply for HBCUs down the street.
“I’m actually hoping that extra MEAC members may look so as to add males’s volleyball and the NEC will present them a spot to compete,” Rumbaugh advised Volleyball Journal in an e mail. “The time is true for extra development. I can’t wait to see who the following college is so as to add.”
The Northeast Convention, which had its inaugural season in 2023, included St. Francis (Pa.), Daemen, Lengthy Island U, Sacred Coronary heart, St. Francis Brooklyn, Merrimack, Fairleigh Dickinson and D’Youville. However Merrimack and Sacred Coronary heart lately introduced they are going to be leaving the convention, so the addition of UMES was welcomed.
“It’s nice to see extra development within the D-I ranks with each the additions of Northern Kentucky and Maryland Japanese Shore,” Rumbaugh stated. “I like that the NEC took the daring step a 12 months in the past when it determined so as to add males’s volleyball as a convention sport.
“With assist from First Level, the NEC helped the final three D-I universities that added males’s volleyball get off to sturdy begins. As members within the NEC are ready for the NCAA bid, the thrilling information about Maryland Japanese Shore becoming a member of the NEC couldn’t have come at a greater time.”
Noreen Morris, commissioner of the Northeast Convention, echoed Rumbaugh’s sentiments in an announcement to VolleyballMag.com:
“The Northeast Convention proudly enters its second 12 months of sponsoring males’s volleyball, and we’re totally dedicated to the expansion of the game. Since 2020, we’ve welcomed 4 new NEC males’s volleyball packages, and the forthcoming addition of UMES within the 2025-26 season heightens our pleasure much more.
“Particular due to Wade Garard and First Level Volleyball Basis for his or her continued help and monetary funding in advancing males’s volleyball on the collegiate degree.”
Owens stated she is completely satisfied for her program to be becoming a member of the NEC. In the long run, nonetheless, she hopes to see the MEAC sponsor males’s volleyball.
“As (Anderson) stated, we’re path blazers in some ways with this transfer,” Owens stated. “Though I consider it’s a implausible transfer for UMES, I definitely hope I can provide some optimistic suggestions to our convention as a result of I consider many extra HBCUs can have a degree of curiosity, and I’m completely satisfied to be the primary.
“However I feel sooner or later we’ll have a large number of faculties that take part. … The extent of range it brings, the thrill it brings to a campus, these are the issues I shall be sharing with my colleagues. … We’ll begin off competing within the NEC, however I’m certainly hoping that sooner or later it could be a (MEAC) sponsor.”
Northern Kentucky, in the meantime, had been trying to develop its athletic choices. Christina Roybal, vp and director of athletics for NKU, stated the college was exploring almost 20 choices for added sports activities.
Six have been chosen, and males’s volleyball was amongst them.
“Males’s volleyball made a whole lot of sense, one, as a result of we’ve a facility that’s solely for volleyball,” Roybal advised Volleyball Journal. “… Two, we knew that it was one of many quickest rising sports activities — if not the quickest rising boys sport — within the nation, and the recognition in Kentucky and Ohio, we heard — anecdotally in addition to statistically — that nice info.
“It made a whole lot of sense for us so as to add this system to provide highschool college students within the area a chance to take part on the Division I degree near residence.”
Roybal stated the college is in lively discussions with the MIVA about becoming a member of the convention and stated Northern Kentucky plans to use for membership.
As with UMES, the information of the addition of males’s volleyball was nicely acquired on the Highland Heights campus, particularly with the ladies’s program. The Norse ladies play within the Horizon League.
“They’re excited,” Roybal stated. “… Liz Hart is our head coach on the ladies’s aspect. She was very excited. She actively stated, ‘I feel it is a superb alternative for NKU.’ They discover the thrill that’s round volleyball year-round. Now we will get pleasure from volleyball in each seasons.”
Ramdeen will graduate in spring of 2025. She stated she may stay at UMES for grad college, however there’s a likelihood she’s going to go elsewhere and gained’t be on campus when the boys’s volleyball workforce performs its historic first match.
Regardless, Ramdeen stated she shall be within the stands.
“Both means I’m undoubtedly going to make it some extent to come back out right here as a result of it’s enormous,” she stated, “particularly this being the primary HBCU Division I volleyball program. I like males’s volleyball, too. It’s simply thrilling to be round.”