Imagine getting to college and playing your favorite sport.
You practice hard and represent your school at playoffs.
When you return home with your first place trophy, you get nothing more than a pat on the back.
This is the case for 10 student-athletes on the volleyball team.
Menâ€™s volleyball â€” club volleyball, that is.
But despite the lack of knowledge and support of the team, they arenâ€™t too worried.
The menâ€™s club volleyball team â€” also known as Red Wave Volleyball â€” has earned national recognition.
In 2004, it won the division I national championship title and in 2006, outside hitter Kit Maddox was the league MVP.
It isnâ€™t much different from any other athletic team on campusâ€” they win and lose, they practice hard and every year, try to be the number one team.
However, being club means they feel they are almost unimportant.
Practice is two days a week from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. because that is the time the gym is available for them.
Money to pay for equipment and tournaments comes mostly from the playersâ€™ pockets.
There is no real recruiting and no special benefit to being on the team, such as scholarships or extravagant facilities.
Instead, in return for their time and money, those 10 players get to play the sport they love.
In its 29th year in existence at Fresno State as a club team, the menâ€™s volleyball team is currently 15-8.
â€œWeâ€™re improving everyday,â€? business major Mike Delotto said. â€œWe just need to work on team concept and playing together.â€?
The 5-1 record at home shows just how the hard work is paying off-and building a reputation.
Earlier this season, the Bulldogs played against Boise State for the first time in team history.
â€œThey drove 10 hours just to play us,â€? head coach Brian Tsukimura said. â€œWe swept them in 48 minutes.â€?
In their other three home matches, the Bulldogs beat Chico State, San Jose State and Holy Names.
â€œWeâ€™ve been playing good lately,â€? Maddox said. â€œBut weâ€™ve come to show that we are a young team.â€?
And the â€˜Dogs arenâ€™t taking anything for granted with their young team.
In fact, having three freshmen on the team is making this year a year for team building.
â€œThis is the youngest team Iâ€™ve ever coached,â€? Tsukimura said. â€œIt is definitely a rebuilding year for us.â€?
Even with the young blood, winning games early on leaves hope for a national run. As teamwork improves, team leaders are emerging, Tsukimura said.
Last seasonâ€™s league MVP Maddox isnâ€™t a typical leader â€” but fills the shoes just right.
â€œHe is quieter and sneaks up on you,â€? Tsukimura said. â€œHeâ€™s not as â€˜in your faceâ€™ as other leaders weâ€™ve had.
â€œHe definitely leads in kills and attempts and steadies out the passing rotation.â€?
Of the nine teams in the menâ€™s division I Northern California Collegiate Volleyball League, four are ranked â€” including Fresno State.
In the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association top 25, Fresno State is ranked No. 22.
Others include No. 8 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, No. 13 Santa Clara, and No. 17 University of California at Berkeley.
Of the remaining games on the 2007 schedule, the most anticipated is the last home game against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
â€œ[Cal Poly] is a really good team,â€? Tsukimura said. â€œThey are probably the team to beat.â€?
Another match greatly anticipated by the â€˜Dogs was UC Davis.
For the first time in four years, the Aggies beat the Bulldogs in the first meeting earlier this season.
The loss came from a little inconsistency in the Bulldogsâ€™ game, Tsukimura said.
In their second meeting at a tournament in Santa Clara last weekend, the â€˜Dogs got the revenge they were looking for after beating the Aggies in two sets.
â€œIt was good to beat Davis since we are rivals,â€? libero Zack Moro said. â€œSince we lost a tough one against them after four years of beating them, it was nice to get revenge.â€?
Since 1978 menâ€™s volleyball has been a club sport at Fresno State, where it took up the name Red Wave Volleyball instead of using Fresno State.
Tsukimura took over in 1994 and since then has won three league championships and the national championship in 2004.
â€œThe national championship we won sort of backward,â€? said Tsukimura. â€œWe actually lost that game but the other team had four illegal players. They withdrew and the president of their school called to apologize.â€?
The remainder of this season will test the young team and if a national run is in sight, they will be prepared.
â€œIt would be nice to finish in the top five at nationals,â€? Delotto said. â€œWeâ€™ll be ready by just working hard.â€?
The Bulldogsâ€™ last home game is March 10 against Cal Poly at 7 p.m. in the North Gym.