It is a Sunday afternoon, and the fourth floor of the MAC is alive with athletic activity. Among the usual games of pickup basketball, some organized activity draws attention to the far court. The court is made up for volleyball, and 20 or more students are moving through a serving drill in a diligent and orderly fashion. One man stands in the middle of the scene shouting encouragement to the players. These are not the giants of the varsity volleyball team; they are the men and women of Dunster volleyball, an intramural machine fueled by a man with a vision.
Paul Ma '92, Resident Tutor in Chemistry and Environmental Science, may be new to Dunster House this year, but his connection to volleyball at Harvard stretches back to his first appearance on the varsity team in his first year as an undergraduate. Having founded and coached a men's and women's AAA volleyball team, Ma felt challenged to take on the intramural circuit upon his return to Harvard. With the help of Dunster resident Heather A. Rypkema '97, a member of the current varsity volleyball squad. Ma set out to make a team. He postered in the dining hall, talked to students individually and even got house funding for uniforms. Today, there are 41 men and women signed up to play volleyball for Dunster House, many of whom also serve as photographers, reporters, coaches, captains and fundraisers for the team. Player George T. Chang '97 designed the uniform, which sets Dunster apart from the pack come game time: a gray t-shirt featuring a neon yellow volleyball and each player's number on the front.
Ma's enthusiasm is hard to escape when conversation comes around to volleyball. He talks about teaching his team "skills they can use elsewhere." He stresses the opportunity volleyball has provided for many of the newer members of Dunster House to meet each other. He even guarantees that "it's going to be a rock-and-roll time!!!" From the look of practice, he may have already come through on that promise. The team comprises more than lonely undergraduates looking for a free t-shirt (although Ma admits that the promise of a uniform didn't hurt the recruitment effort); along with a few tutors, Dunster residents from all three classes make up two men's teams, a women's team, and a co-ed team.
By now, each of the Dunster volleyball teams have played their first match. The uniforms have been broken in and the plays which looked so good on paper have had their first test run. Considering the fact the Dunster ranks twelfth out of 12 in the. Strauss Cup competition for cumulative intramural points, there's nowhere to go but up. No matter what happens, Ma will get his wish for the team: He just wants people to have a good time and learn how to play volleyball.
Even while hoping that Dunster's momentum will carry them to victory, FM can't help but notice that one more sign of randomization is making itself seen. This fall, after years of renown for less savory pursuits, Harvard's own Adams House not only won intramural competitions in soccer and ultimate frisbee, but went on to beat Yale's intramural champs in both of these events. Now, Dunster, the smoky little house by the river, is abuzz with volleyball. There may be strange times ahead. Wake us when they open the Mather House artspace!