May 19, 2024
Eli Halverson and Matt Gerardi

Eli Halverson ’26 is an outside hitter on the Wittenberg’s Men’s Volleyball team from Hamilton, OH. He went to High School at Badin HS and played club at Cincinnati Attack. Matt Gerardi is also an outside hitter on the team from Dayton, OH. He went to Tecumseh HS and played club at A2 West.  

BL: How long have you played? 

Eli Halverson: I played basketball and baseball my whole life. I played in grade school in 7th and 8th grade during gym for fun, but it was never serious. When I went to high school, I played freshman year in the spring and club in the winter of my sophomore year, but then the pandemic hit, and I did not get to play in the spring. In junior year all my friends played basketball and during Covid I was hanging out with all of them, and they convinced me to play basketball. I went back to volleyball in my senior year, quit basketball again and went back to club my senior year and then that is when I came to Witt and realized I was pretty good at volleyball, and I wanted to make that my main sport. I have played volleyball seriously for only 4 years. 

Matt Gerardi: I started playing in fifth grade non-competitively, but I started club in 8th grade. Competitively, probably 6 years, not competitively probably 8 years, and it has been a great 2 seasons at Witt so far. We’re starting the season off great so far after last year.  

BL: What got you to start playing volleyball?

EH: My high school coach. I went to a few open gyms because some friends who were sophomores when I was a freshman played, so I showed up to open gym and said “You know what? I am tall, I will be ok, I played a little in grade school.” My coach was the head at Badin at the time and was telling me that I should seriously consider volleyball and playing, so ever since I have been playing, and she set the foundation for me moving forward after that. 

MG: I played because of my dad. My dad and grandpa were co-coaches when I played grade school. My dad played because my grandpa played, and he was pretty good. He won bronze in the junior Olympics (similar to nationals nowadays) when he was 16. I played because he played and my siblings also played but I was the one to stick with volleyball in college.  

BL: What is your major? 

EH: I am a double major in Sport Management and Data Science, and my dream is to work in sport analytics or sport data. 

MG: Economics and Marketing, I came to Witt looking for business and after meeting professors I decided that was for me. 

BL: Are there any challenges with your major that may interfere with volleyball? 

EH: It is definitely harder when we are in season, in the fall we practice 2-3 times a week so it is a lot easier to manage what days we do, and don’t have practice so I get homework done on this day, as long as you stay on top of it and ahead of it, for me it is doing something every day so you are not getting behind, I have not had too many problems. 

MG: My freshman year I laid back on extracurriculars, so I focused on school and volleyball, but this year I picked up clubs and organizations and am good at keeping a timely schedule. 

BL: What are you involved in on campus outside of sports?  

EH: We are both in Delta Tau Delta fraternity, we both hold positions. I am the VP of Development, and I am in NSLS as well. 

MG: I am the recruitment chair for Delta Tau Delta. I am also the VP of PR in IFC, and I am also a RA in Tower. 

BL: What made you choose to come to Witt? 

MH: Our coach, Nathan. At the time, the volleyball team had went 2-22 the year before, and they had fired the coach, but Nathan was like this 25-year-old who played for Witt and was the assistant on the UK women’s team who won the title. I could tell he had this vision of where the program was going and obviously our class had 9 freshman (now sophomores) and 2 graduate transfers, you could tell he was going to get this going.  

MG: Nathan was a big part in me coming to Witt. I had known him since I was in high school because he coached the girls’ team. I had helped him stat games and grew our relationship that way, and finances were cheaper, and Nathan really wanted me to play for the team, and I thought why not. 

BL: Who would you say is your biggest rival? 

EH: Baldwin Wallace. 

MG: Baldwin Wallace. 

BL: What is your favorite part of Witt?  

EH: The ability to have a relationship with professors. A lot of my friends that go to bigger schools go to class and maybe email their professors every once in a while. A lot of the classes by the end of the semester I feel like I had a relationship with the professor which is rare in college. 

MG: The students. Wittenberg has that rare mix of knowing everyone and seeing them every day. It lacks the drama of stereotypical high school. It is a good social school, and people are willing to help in any way they can, which makes it a great friendly environment. 

BL: What is your main goal as a player throughout your career at Witt? 

EH: Our goal teamwise is different from year to year. We want to win and go to the Final 4 and win a championship. Right now, that is unrealistic. This season, specifically, we want to win conference. We also want to beat Baldwin Wallace, our biggest rival, top 20 in the nation, who beat us twice last season.  

MG: Winning conference and making the tournament. 

BL: What is the biggest piece of advice a coach has given you? 

EH: It would have to be from my high school coach telling me to play volleyball instead of basketball, as a kid, I always loved basketball but part of me was also like its boys’ volleyball, nobody plays boys’ volleyball, I am going to play basketball. My coach really saw what I could be in volleyball, and I am so thankful for that now because it is my passion and what I love to do, and I would not be where I am today. 

MG: I have had lots of great coaches and great advice but the advice that stuck with me is from my high school track coach before an important meet during the pre-meet pep talk that there is a couple thousand words in the dictionary, and only one can define you and that’s “choice.” I think about this day to day and try to continue to make the best choices I can.  

BL: If you did not play volleyball, what would you play instead? 

EH: Basketball, baseball but probably basketball. 

MG: I have played volleyball for so long, I also ran and played soccer I would say running. I do not know if I would do it in college. 

BL: What is your pregame ritual? 

EH: We have a set schedule that we have every day, get there, serve, and pass 3 hours before, get Tropical Smoothie, come back and then for me I get treatment on my back with a heating pad, do stretches and listen to music before the game. I would listen to music that is the opposite of calm, so it feels like I want to run through a brick wall. 

MG: Get something to eat, relax the mind a little bit, listen to calming music, start warm up, get treatment, listen to music, and get my mind right.  

BL: What’s your pregame song?

EH: 21 Savages’ new album. 90s rap, NWA, Jay Z, Eminem.  

MG: I listen to a lot of Metro Boomin, No Complaints. There’s Miscellaneous, A Milli by Lil Wayne.  

BL: What is your pregame meal? 

EH: Tropical smoothie, you definitely have to enjoy Tropical Smoothie to be on the Men’s Volleyball team because we get it quite a bit.  

BL: What’s your go to smoothie? 

EH: Peanut butter cup smoothie with extra protein. 

MG: Paradise Point, I think it’s strawberries, pineapple, and banana. 

BL: Ever thought about coaching?  

EH: I thought about it a lot. A lot of people in my life have told me I would be a good coach, but I do not know if I would want to do that as my career, something on the side for fun 

MG: Same here, I do not have the coaching desire. If I have a son, I would coach him like my dad, but nothing serious. 

BL: Favorite part of practice (not 6’s)? 

EH: Minigames where we play 5 on 5. Nathan likes to encourage trash talking competitiveness, he wants us to treat practice like a game. There is going to be stuff like that with other teams, if we do not practice for it, we will not be ready for it so anything that gets competitive that has gameplay I am here for.  

MG: I think minigames, it is everything you said and more. 

BL: Who is your biggest rival on the team? 

EH: (Michael) Yurk would have to be one because we are very similar players and switch back and forth on who the guy is on the team. Based off competitiveness and rivalry, I would say Sam. I think Nathan puts us on different teams in practice on purpose because we get after each other a lot. If he blocks me in practice, I will not hear the end of it for a week or longer. As heated as we get in the moment at the end, we dap each other up, it is all fun and games.  

MG: I am the team’s peacemaker, I do not talk much trash, I get heated sometimes but not the instigator. I do not discourage it at all, but it is just not my thing. If I had a rival it would have to be Trajan Kress, a good buddy of mine, we are battling for a spot half of the time and we motivate each other.  

BL: Is there a lot of running in practice?  

EH: Honestly no, we should do more running. We do so much conditioning because we do gameplay in practice, and we move faster. It is not like the point is over and we take 15 seconds. The point is over, and the next ball is served so when we do minigames or 6s that is our running, but it does not seem like running because it is fun, so we do not dread it. 

MG: In volleyball, you do not get tired from running, you get tired from jumping, but there is not a way to condition with jumping other than jump ropes, the more you play the more conditioning you get, we run for punishment. 

BL: If you had one word to describe your teammate, what would it be? 

EH: I like the peacemaker. Matt is our glue guy, and he brings all the different personalities together, he is the guy that no one goes after during practice. We all love Matt. He is that guy. 

MG: I would say captain. He is the role model as in like the game, how he plays and what he does outside the court. 

BL: What is the backstory of “cornball”?  

EH: That is what a lot of people say about Matt. Putting it into words is hard to explain, goofy is the best word. 

MG: Goofy, it is a funny connotation, and it is playful.  

The two of them agreed: “Come to volleyball games! We need to do stuff like this more often to get our names out there. Volleyball is a recovering sport at Witt, and it has been diminished and through tough times from previous coaches and bad decisions. We are doing a great job of recuperating it and getting back to where it should be. TIGER UP!” 

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