Team chemistry helping Fort Wayne volleyball team heading into Ball State match

Junior opposite Colton Stone has been a big part of the Fort Wayne men's volleyball team's rebound season from 5-23 last season to 15-5 so far this year. (By Blake Sebring of

Every coach talks about it and every team tries to find it, but building strong team chemistry is very difficult. That’s also why it’s instantly recognizable when it happens.

Fort Wayne men’s volleyball coach Ryan Perrotte saw it with his team when the fall season began, and it’s gotten stronger every day since.

“This is as close as a group as I’ve ever been around,” said Perrotte who is a third-year coach but has been around the program since he was a freshman in 1995. “I saw the way that we jelled, this team cohesion. It’s very special and very rare when it comes through, and it shows on the volleyball court. A year ago that doesn’t happen, but our team has embraced the grind, the process and now they are embracing victory and now they are moving forward.”

After finishing 5-23 last season, the Volleydons are 15-5 and are ranked No. 15 in the national coaches poll heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. match against No. Ball State at Gates Sports Center. Fort Wayne is coming off a California spring break trip where it defeated No. 3 UC-Irvine and No. 14 Concordia-Irvine.

Not only does the coach see the new closeness on his team, but the players sense the camaraderie, too. They went through too much last year not to enjoy it now when things are going well.

“I tell everybody that this team has been the closest-knit team that I’ve played on,” fourth-year player Tony Price said. “Last year, we had quitters and they brought negativity to practice, and now we have 14 guys who want to come to practice and grind and push each other to get better and win games. Everybody is like a brother on this team, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that in my four years.

“There were a few excuses here and there, and this year there are none. We know how good we are and how good we can be. It’s a blessing to be able to come out and play with these guys.”

Sometimes attitude leads to teams talking themselves into believing how good they can be. It also helps that this year Price is back from a first-match injury that ended his season last year. Then freshman Pelegrin Vargas missed the second half of the season with an injury. Both are back stronger than ever this season, and that has boosted everyone else.

“We’re all from different parts of the country so we treat this team like a family,” junior Colton Stone said. “We’re always hanging out together, going to the movies and having team dinners. Hopefully, we can keep it up the rest of the season. Everyone is here to get better.”

The change is obvious to see not only during the matches but also in practice. The smiles and teasing from warmups to sprints show how much they enjoy working together and being around each other.

“What’s so special about this group of guys is you are getting leadership from all of them,” Perrotte said. “It’s a collective leadership thing and not just one person trying to carry the load for the program.”