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Roger Martin was the co-captain and MVP of his high school basketball team. Ken Argentieri wrestled and played tennis "way back when" for Baldwin High School. And Greg Nitzkowski ran track and played football before he left the sunny skies of Huntington Beach, Calif., for those of Cambridge.
Today they're all playing for the Harvard volleyball team.
Nitzkowski says he declined to pursue his career on the gridiron "because I was disillusioned with the whole football thing in high school. It was a degrading, dehumanizing experience, and I wanted a more low-key experience."
"I got tired of barking 'Yes sir' to some idiot coach for hours on end, and going through ridiculous rituals to prove your manhood," he says.
Enter Harvard volleyball.
Some team members, like Martin and Tod Tanaka, played on regular varsity teams in high school. Others, such as Argentieri and Nitzkowski, gained experience on beaches and in gym classes.
What they have in common is a dedication to volleyball. Since it is a club sport, the University contributes no money to the team and all expenses--balls, nets, officials, travel costs--come out of the players' pockets.
It is largely through the efforts of Argentieri that the team exists from week to week. "If it wasn't for him," says Tanaka, "I don't think there'd be volleyball at Harvard." Little things like buying balls, arranging for court time, and setting up a schedule take time and energy.
Some members complain about the poor conditions with which the squad must contend. "The IAB is the worst volleyball facility I could imagine. There's no regulation volleyball court marked out anywhere in the building," Martin says. "It is an embarrassment to bring a team into the IAB."
For the one home match the club did play this year, they had to mark out a court on the basketball floor with tape.
But the problem is not just in the minor-sport status of volleyball. All athletes that use the IAB suffer from the obsolete facilities and overcrowding.
Argentieri, who represents the team to the officials at 60 Boylston St., recognizes the universal nature of the problem. "They have a limited amount of resources and they have to allocate them," he says. Argentieri complains, however, that they're not divided up fairly.
"A little bit of money to our club would go a long way," he says. "If they didn't buy the football team steak for one day and bought them hamburgers instead, they could probably support the team for a year."
The club also suffers from a serious problem of lack of exposure around the University. Try-outs were held in the beginning of October, and about 30 people showed up. But it was not until a month later, when the University disseminated a list of club sports at Harvard, that a number of prospective players even learned of the team.
Notwithstanding the discouraging conditions, the team plays a highly competitive brand of ball. They are now 4-1 in the Eastern Division of the New England Collegiate Volleyball League, and they have an excellent chance of finishing their season the last week in March with a 7-1 record.
Eight teams--the top two finishers in each of the three divisions, along with two wild-card teams--will journey to Went-worth College on April 15 and 16 for the post-season tournament.
Whatever happens in the league, Harvard's season will end earlier than it should. "We play a fraction of the matches we could play, and go to a fraction of the tournaments we could go to because of a lack of funds," Martin says.
An effort was made early in the year to organize a fall league, the Boston Power Volleyball League. "It was really an opportunity for the teams to play in the fall to get ready for the spring," Argentieri says.
Harvard played ten matches in the league, finishing 6-4, but several clubs dropped out in mid-season, making the experiment a partial success at best.
It has been a banner year for Harvard volleyball, but the future looks bright. With a little talent and a lot of dedication the team has made its presence felt in the New England area. "I'm sure Harvard could easily win the Easterns if they had any kind of a program here," Tanaka says.
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