Intercollegiate volleyball is growing quickly in popularity at Harvard despite a lack of financial support from the Athletic Department.
A Harvard team plays in the 16-team East Coast Volleyball League.
But before the Athletic Department came up with $100 for the team this week, the players themselves spent $170 for transportation, tournament entry fees, and equipment.
Despite these troubles, the Harvard team is presently tied with Yale for second place in a division that includes Springfield College, Yale and Wentworth Institute. The volleyballers are 1-1, having beaten Wentworth, 3-0, and losing to perennial power Springfield, 3-1.
Coach Mike Palm, a graduate student in English, played volleyball as a Yale undergraduate and made the All-East Coast squad. Unlike other coaches, Palm is not paid.
"When I was at Yale," Palm said, "the university gave us little support initially, but as we began to win, they gave us what we wanted. Hopefully the same thing will happen here."
Senior Todd Stitzer is the only experienced player on the team. Stitzer, a transfer student, played for the Springfield volleyball team the year it won the East Coast championship.
Sophomore Steve Kay is a more typical team member. Kay played on the Harvard freshman basketball team, but has had little volleyball experience. He said, "Our inexperience as a team will cost us games. The real problem, though, is that the program is so low-key, people who have the potential to play for us either don't know we exist, or, because of the lack of administration backing, turn to other things."
The East Coast League's 16 teams are arranged in four divisions of four teams each.
The top two teams in Harvard's division advance to a round-robin tournament, and the tournament's winner then goes on to the national championships in California. Palm said he was optimistic about the team's chances. "Although Springfield is guaranteed a playoff spot, we have beaten Wentworth and think we can beat Yale to make the playoffs."