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California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Kingsmen Volleyball takes home first NCAA DIII Championship title in program history

Photo Contributed by Emily Adlfinger
The Kingsmen volleyball team are bringing home their first NCAA DIII title in program history.

For the first time in program history, the California Lutheran University Kingsmen volleyball team has won its first NCAA Division III Tournament Championship title in program history. This was also the Kingsmen volleyball team’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. 

The NCAA DIII Tournament was hosted at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. Previously, the Kingsmen defeated Illinois’ Dominican University Stars 3-1 in the Sweet 16, then went on to defeat the Loras College Duhawks 3-2 in the Elite Eight, and secured their spot in the final match with a 3-2 victory over the Ducks of Stevens Institute of Technology in the Final Four.

According to CLU Sports, “The Kingsmen received an at-large berth after going 22-3 against Division III competition. This is their first time in the NCAA Championship. The Kingsmen started their tournament with a 3-1 win over Dominican [IL]. The Kingsmen then faced Loras College, the host of the regional, and defeated the Duhawks 3-2 in an epic battle.”

Senior outside hitter Ben Weber said from the moment he committed to the team he knew he had a good group of volleyball players, and the team made a collective effort to make it their goal to qualify for the tournament and eventually try to make it to the championship.

“The motivation is winning a national championship and that’s kind of the standard we set for ourselves, and we know everyone on the team’s dedicated. Really, we just try to stay motivated all the time, every practice, every little thing, every little detail, we try to focus on that and really just dedicate ourselves to it,” Weber said.

Men’s Volleyball Head Coach Kevin Judd began his coaching career at Cal Lutheran in 2006 as an assistant coach for the Regals volleyball program. Men’s volleyball was added as a varsity sport to Cal Lutheran in 2015, and Judd has been coaching the team since. 

“We’re nine years old and we’ve been plugging away and just giving it everything we can to get into this NCAA tournament…Just the opportunity to get into an NCAA tournament and make a run at it is very exciting for the program,” Judd said.

This year’s Kingsmen Volleyball team of 17 players has made a breakthrough in Cal Lutheran sports and marked many milestones this year. 

“Not only do you have to have talent, but you have to have a group of guys that are all on the same page and willing to accept their role. Whether that is a starting role or a non-starting role, you just have to have buy-in,” Judd said. “And if you do, you’ve got 17 guys that are willing to just come into practice, day and day out, give it everything they’ve got for the team. And I think it’s a true testament to everybody really working hard, 17 strong.”

For the first time in program history, three of the Kingsmen have received All-American status.  

Junior setter Taylor Marks received First-Team All-American. 

“It’s a first for our program, which is incredible. So much hard work by Taylor Marks. He came in as a freshman and has been grinding away and doing some great things,” Judd said.

Senior outside hitter Jordan Cooper received the title of Second-Team All-American.

“And then a transfer player, Jordan Cooper, came into the squad this year, a very talented young man who was able to earn Second Team All-American,” Judd said. 

Senior outside hitter Michael Stahl received Honorable Mention All-American.

“Michael Stahl was a transfer from Moorpark College. He came in this year as well and was able to earn a Honorable Mention All-American Award. A collection of guys and a collection of talent and alignment of goals has certainly made our program that much stronger,” Judd said. 

Judd said the greatest challenge with the program is being an independent program. 

Other universities, including Cal Lutheran athletic teams, get the opportunity to play in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship, and if they win they become an automatic qualifier in the NCAA tournament. 

Because Cal Lutheran men’s volleyball is independent, Judd said the only way the NCAA will look at them is if they make it in the top 10 independent teams in the nation. 

“This year, we certainly took care of business with regards to the independent status. And along the way, we knocked off a lot of big, powerful teams that turned some heads over there at the NCAA committee,” Judd said.

Weber said one of the greatest challenges he and the team face as an independent program is the amount of traveling. He said they have traveled to Santa Cruz, California, Wisconsin, Chicago, and Pennsylvania playing multiple games a day back-to-back.

Just in the span of two weeks, the Kingsmen had to fly to Iowa and back to the university twice.

“I just really want to give a thanks to the school and supporting us both as an independent program with the needs we have as a program, we just want to represent CLU in the best way that we can. And we are so thankful that the school supports us as an independent program and flies us all over the nation to do these things,” Judd said.

The NCAA Finals match was live-streamed at Cal Lutheran’s watch party at Cronies Sports Grill in Newbury Park on Sunday, April 28.

“Just seeing all the students and the athletics staff interact with the students, it’s just such a positive environment, everybody comes together in community and it’s a beautiful event to support our student-athletes,” Brooks said.

On Sunday, April 28, the Kingsmen swept the Vassar College Brewers 3-0 in the National Championship match.

At the end of the 2024 season, the Kingsmen have produced an overall record of 26-5 following their first NCAA Championship title and appearance in program history.

Sports editor Sammy Fahn contributed to this report.

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