Teammates are often described as family, "a group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals". For Tim Callahan and his teammates not only have they achieved their goals but his teammates gave him a family away from home during a difficult time.
Heading to college, away from home for an extended time for the first time, is a difficult transition for many. That transition was made only more difficult for Tim Callahan when his father passed away during his first week of college at Eastern Mennonite University.
"My father's death was hard for me because obviously it was the death of a parent, but also it was my first week in a new life at college," said Callahan. "I was at EMU for the first day of orientation before going home for the last week of his life. I then was thrusted right into college. Before that, my grandmother died during my senior high school volleyball season. It was a tough 3-4 years as I watched her have a stroke and hung out with her almost every day in the nursing home."
During this stretch, it was his teammates and athletics that helped Tim find an escape, even if it was just for an hour or two at a time.
"Playing a sport just let me get away from everyday life. For two hours a day, I was able to forget about everything I was going through and just have fun. Not only this, but college volleyball gave me an instant friend group on campus. I was able to have a huge group of friends that I was then able to use as a support system if needed. Sports have also taught me how to overcome challenges and come out of slumps or figure out how to pick myself up."
A family not only helps each other in their times of need but also has similar interest, attitudes, and goals. For the Eastern Mennonite men's volleyball team one of their goals was to put the Royals program back on the map. Moreover it is through that team togetherness that helped the Royals find that success.
"With the loss of a coach right before the season started, you could see the team come together as a unit. We have been together for a while now and as juniors, we are more comfortable under different circumstances. I believe the biggest reason for the success we have had this year is the amount of talent we have put together and the confidence around the team. Everyone has put in work to get better, from returning players to the freshmen and transfers. We have taken the responsibility upon ourselves to get better each and every day of practice."
That hard work and confidence has paid off royally for Eastern Mennonite. They are currently 15-6 overall record and ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association National Poll. This year marked the first time the Royals appeared in the poll since the 2009 season, achieving a ranking as high as #7 in the nation.
"The national rankings are pretty awesome. We all came here to develop the program and we are finally showing everything we have done. I also think the first national ranking was a curse. It was the first time we have been ranked since 2009 and I think we settled in a little bit. We have to make sure we put it on ourselves to not get complacent and to keep striving for more success. But it feels good to have finally put Eastern Mennonite University on the map."
The Royals can look back to one weekend in particular during the 2017 season that put them on the map, the final weekend in January. That weekend the Royals played in the Clash at Kean, where they would face three top ten ranked opponents. Eastern Mennonite wound up taking down two of their ranked foes.
"The first win, against Nazareth, was the most exciting match I had ever been a part of. To then go and almost knock off another team (Kean) on their home court was also fun. But to close out the weekend by knocking off a second ranked team was just the icing on the cake to a good weekend. We showed what level of volleyball we could compete at."
The confidence that the team built in the off-season was only further developed after that weekend. It led to the Royals climbing up in the poll and sparking a stretch in which they would win 12 of their next 14 matches.
"Being nationally ranked now helps for the future too, because we will know what it takes to get ranked and what it will take to beat the best teams. This year's team is starting to end all of the bad streaks of losses against the teams in our conference. It has also brought the learning curve that we must play every game hard. We cannot go against unranked teams or teams ranked lower than us and just try to walk through the game. We have to prepare and play as if we are still the underdogs."