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For Indiana’s Team Pineapple, this season has been about adjustments.
“Unfortunately due to overseas play and changes in work schedules, we have not had the luxury of having our entire team together for any tournaments this season”, team representative Ron Clark told me.
But despite such a major obstacle, Team Pineapple finds themselves as one of the VLA's top six, an impressive feat in its own right, but not one that they are satisfied with heading into the championships.
Indiana’s VLA team seems to understand that in sports, your players earn your team its reputation, but their temporary absence is no excuse. “I know that when people hear the name of Team Pineapple, they know the quality of the players,” Clark said.
Volleyball fans have good reason to know the quality of Team Pineapple’s players, as their roster features very accomplished players.
Most well-known of all is the great Lloy Ball, who won gold with the US Men’s National Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Ball is one of the greatest setters in American history; his talents landed him contracts with some of the world’s most prominent professional clubs, including Casa Modena in Italy and Zenit Kazan in the Russian, all part of an impressive sixteen year professional career.
Featured in Ball’s offense are opposite Jalen Penrose, who graduated from Penn State in 2017, and middle Brendan Schmidt, who graduated from McKendree in 2018 and currently holds the program record for total career blocks and total blocks in a single season.
Both players have continued their volleyball careers overseas and have gotten the opportunity to represent the United States at the senior national team level. Penrose was named to the 2021 NORCECA Championship Roster and Schmidt competed in the 2018 and 2019 Pan American Cups, as well as the 2019 Pan American Games.
After only listing three players, it is clear that Team Pineapple has a roster that will compete in every match they play in. The combination of a legendary setter with a prolific opposite and middle is an impressive offensive, even without considering the rest of the team.
The rest of Team Pineapple’s roster is also strong, ten of its thirteen rostered players are former collegiate volleyball players.
Their competitiveness was made clear in a VLA Cup matchup against the Phoenix Ascension, who they will play in Pool A on Saturday. The match was won in five sets by the Ascension, but the final point differential was only three points. When the fifth set was tied at twelve, both teams had scored exactly 108 points.
“It is always a great match whenever [Team Pineapple and the Phoenix Ascension] play, it really is about who rises to the occasion. It just comes down to execution,” said Clark.
And if a five set match is decided by only three points, can the difference between a win or a loss even be attributed to execution? Three points is very much within the margin of error in which some points simply just happen and the teams can not do much to change their outcome.
Regardless of how the few points here and there go, you can count on great competition and great matches from Team Pineapple.
“We will grind like we always do and play to the highest level possible. It will be a great weekend balling out with our friends and volleyball family,” said Clark.
While this weekend’s VLA Exhibition in Phoenix between the West Coast Brigade, Phoenix Ascension, and Phoenix Valor is fast approaching, improvements and adjustments ahead of the event are far from over.