EIVA INAUGURAL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
HONORED AT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A large fan base was in attendance
to cheer on the Penn State men’s volleyball team during last
Saturday’s Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association
(EIVA) Championship match. The night was not just for the match as
six legends were honored throughout the evening, each with history
that has made the EIVA into what it is today.
Prior to the opening set the late Uvaldo Acosta and the late Tom Hay were recognized for their accomplishments. Acosta tragically lost his life in 1998 while on a team trip with George Mason in Hawaii. On hand was Paul Koncir to accept the award on behalf of Uvaldo and he explained “I was honored and humbled to be asked to be part of his induction. Actually my mind kept going back to all the people that knew him and my wishing they could share in this. To be the first player inducted to the Hall of Fame is a proud honor and one that his family and friends take tremendous joy in.”
Koncir reflected on his memories with Uvaldo as a player with the Patriots, “He played at a speed that was a decade ahead of his time and seemed to have an unlimited range for hitting, passing and defending. At 5’11’’ and with no volleyball background to speak of, to become a 3-time All-American and Best Defensive Player in the world in 1991 simply defied logic to us.” And his legacy continued as a coach with Koncir explaining “He had unlimited ideas and ways to teach skills and the sport. Quite honestly, 12 years later I still look back to his influence on me as a coach as to why I chose to do what I do now.”
Accepting on behalf Coach Hay was Arthur Iwanicki, Springfield College ’70. Coach Hay began the volleyball program at Springfield College in 1966 and coached both the men’s and women’s teams for 22 seasons. “Matches in the 60’s and 70’s usually meant versus YMCA’s, not colleges, so travel to New Haven, Conn. was against the New Haven YMCA’s, not Yale” stated Iwanicki. Building the program from the ground up was a challenge that Coach Hay met head on. “Travel to away matches was by personal car (3 or 4 cars) at a reimbursement of 6.5 centers per gallon (gas was 19 cents a gallon)” explained Iwanicki.
Coach Hay’s 1971 men’s program reached the NCAA Men’s Championship at UCLA and his career record of 675-286-20 came prior to the rally scoring system used today. The traditional scoring system only allowed a team to score when they controlled the serve. His coaching and teaching has earned him inductions into the YMCA Volleyball Hall of Fame as well as the Springfield Hall of Fame.
Ivan Marquez and the late Bill Odeneal would be honored following the first set of the match. Ivan, a graduate of SUNY-Brockport, was the head coach of the Concordia College Clippers men’s volleyball team from 1995 until the team’s final season in 2003. Over his coaching career at Concordia, he earned back-to-back trips to the EIVA Championship match in 2000 and 2001. In 2003 he was named the first Executive Director of the EIVA and remains at the position to this day.
"Although I believe the committee should have their heads examined, I am deeply humbled to be thought of on the same amazing level as these great volleyball men,” stated Marquez. “As the EIVA continues to prove to be at the forefront of NCAA conferences, it has been my privilege to be part of this great league. As Commissioner, I would like to proudly salute each and every student-athlete who has worn an EIVA jersey at all of our schools for the past 40 years.”
“Ivan is the only one of the inductees not to have something named after him,” stated Ron Shayka the EIVA’s President. “We have come a long way because of him and his leadership has helped to get us here. Others contributed early while he brought us to where we are today. Just because his contributions are recent doesn’t mean they’re not significant.”
Odeneal’s wife, Lucy, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband alongside their three daughters prior to the beginning of the second set. Coach Odeneal became the first full-time collegiate volleyball coach when he guided the Florida State Seminoles in 1949. He earned three National Championships in the 50’s before accepting the head coaching job at SUNY New Paltz. “He was one of the pioneers and very instrumental in growth of the league. It was relatively easy to name him to the inaugural class,” stated Ron Shayka the EIVA’s President.
Shayka continued to explain “Lucy was thrilled with the honor. He has been recognized in the past and [Lucy] was not a part in some of his recognitions and she did not want to miss out on this opportunity. She flew in from Florida and wasn’t aware this [Odeneal Cup] was named after him. It was the first time they saw the trophy and their eyes lit up.” This was also the first time all three daughters have been together in years and they look forward to returning for next year’s ceremonies.
The final two honorees would be recognized after the second set as Bob Sweeney and Tom Tait took to the court of Recreation Hall. Coach Sweeney compiled a 381-224 record at East Stroudsburg and today his name is on the EIVA Coach of the Year award. He took his volleyball program from club to varsity status prior to retiring from coaching in 1994.
Sweeney also acted as the treasurer and president of the EIVA while contributing to the expansion of men’s volleyball on the east coast. He was inducted to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1995, the East Stroudsburg Hall of Fame in 1996 and the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2005.
Coach Tait, who is considered as the father of Penn State volleyball, would be the last inductee honored during the match. He played important roles in both the men’s and women’s programs into what they are today. During his coaching career he led the Nittany Lions to four NCAA Championships and mentored 20 All-Americans. He was also inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2003 and travels around the country sharing his knowledge of volleyball as a top instructor.
With the guidance that Shayka has empowered, the EIVA has become a conference that others will emulate. The formation of the Hall of Fame will become a cornerstone in rewarding those that have contributed to the league.
Following the match Lucy would help present the Odeneal Cup to Penn State. The trophy in the name of her late husband served as a symbol that night of how far the EIVA has come in its proud history. Next season another class will be added to the EIVA Hall of Fame each with their own story in the formation of what the league stands for today.
Story Courtesy of George Mason Athletic Communications and
Concordia College Athletic Communications on behalf of the Eastern
Intercollegiate Volleyball Association