Claremont mens’ club volleyball sets up team chemistry with spring season on its way

Team captain, Lewis Smith PO ’23, leaps for a spike during a men’s club volleyball team practice. (Anna Shobe • The Student Life)

Sitting at one of Frary Dining Hall’s circular tables for the first weekly Sunday brunch, Kenneth Feliz PO ’26 felt at home even though the 5C mens’ club volleyball team will not be in season until next spring. Early on this fall, the team had already been meeting up to get to know one another, with high hopes to bring home a championship win at the end of its spring season.

One of four first-years on the team, Feliz said he felt at ease with the other players once he made the roster after three intense open gym tryouts. 

“The older players have made the transition to the team super comfortable,” Feliz said. “They’re super knowledgeable in volleyball and were incredibly kind and welcoming.”

Feliz has been playing volleyball since sixth grade and was on the varsity team throughout high school. Because the 5Cs don’t offer a men’s varsity volleyball team, Feliz decided to try out for the club team, which is in a highly competitive Division II bracket. 

In preparation for their spring season, the Kangaroos have already kicked off weekly practices on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays. The team plays its first preseason game Nov. 4 and its first tournament Nov. 14, which stirs a combination of “nerves and excitement” in Feliz.

Middle blocker Lawrence Stampino-Strain PO ’26 is also navigating this pressure. While he played volleyball during his senior year of high school, he spent much of his high school career pursuing other sports, such as basketball.

However, he said he appreciates the balance of collaboration and competitiveness on the team, which has allowed him to make close relationships with his teammates.

“Volleyball is really about positive connections with others, and our team really embodies that,” Stampino-Strain said. “It was obviously intimidating coming onto the team at first, but I’m starting to feel really at home.”

Like the other players in club volleyball, Stampino-Strain hopes to earn a successful season record while learning from the other athletes.

“We’re a super solid team, and all of us are on the same page,” he said. “We’re teammates and serious athletes, but we’re also friends, and I appreciate that a lot.” 

Co-captain, middle blocker and outside hitter Lewis Smith PO ’23 has prioritized developing this affinity. Along with working on on-court chemistry, he is also in charge of facilitating regular team meals and organized events.

Smith was selected as co-captain of the team alongside David Rodriguez PO ’23 through an election process last season. In addition to fostering community, their responsibilities include budgeting, fundraising, coaching the team and organizing games and scrimmages.  

With the high caliber of players, Smith said he’s confident that they can become semi-finalists or even national champions. Regardless of how their season goes, he added that being part of the team has been pivotal to his experience at the 5Cs. 

“I’ve always felt like practices and spending time with the team are the times when I can be myself,” he said. “Being on the team has been one of the most positive and beneficial experiences I’ve had while at Pomona.”

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