As the sun was shining throughout the campus of Springfield College yesterday afternoon, it seemed to glisten a bit more outside Blake Arena.
Walking down the steps to greet their fans in their white jumpsuits, the men’s volleyball team was ready to take the bus.
Head coach Charlie Sullivan and his team made their waves, said their hellos, and then quickly said their goodbyes as they headed to Rochester, N.Y. for the Division III National Championships at Nazareth College. The No.2 seeded Pride face No.7 Kean on Friday night. One of the many players stepping onto the bus was a 6-foot-7 presence in Julian Welsh-White.
A new member this season to the Pride, he’s not a freshman, but a senior who started his volleyball career far, far away from the Alden Street campus.
In the fall of 2012, Welsh-White decided to leave his community of Collingswood, N.J. to make the 600 mile trek to Muncie, Ind., and begin his journey as a college freshman at Ball State University.
The towering structure that he is, there was no surprise that Welsh-White played both basketball and volleyball in high school. He committed to play volleyball at Ball State as a middle blocker, competing against some of the top teams in Division I.
Throughout his three years at Ball State, Welsh-White saw challenges come his way. Being on a four-year academic scholarship, the Collingswood native faced a dilemma when trying to enter his senior year as a Cardinal. Since he had season-ending surgery on his shoulder, Welsh-White qualified for a medical red shirt.
The medical red shirt opened up another year of eligibility, but unfortunately due to a lack of financial aid, Welsh-White would have to finish up his volleyball career in 2015-16 at a different school.
Being a sports administration major at Ball State, Welsh-White’s main focus was to find a school that either had sports administration or sports management.
“I wasn’t even looking to play volleyball at that point,” said Welsh-White. “I was looking to finish school.”
Welsh-White was able to cut down his list to George Mason, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Springfield. It wasn’t just the sports management program at the Alden Street campus that played a factor in his decision. Former Springfield College men’s volleyball player Ryan Quesenberry already knew Welsh-White and helped sell the program to the transfer.
As the Division I transfer made it official that he was headed to Springfield College for the 2015-16 academic year, he didn’t forget about what he left behind where his college career all started.
“It was hard to leave, it was very hard to leave with all the friendships and relationships I had developed over the four years I was there [at Ball State],” said Welsh-White. “I didn’t want to, but it was what was best for me.”
Although he was primarily focused on finishing up his academics, head coach Charlie Sullivan had the incoming senior on his radar. Despite not ever seeing Welsh-White play volleyball in person, Sullivan saw enough video to want the 6-foot-7 threat on the Pride’s roster.
With the known fact that Welsh-White found a true home at Ball State for three years, it’s not always an easy transition for a college athlete to fit in right away to a new school. But, the senior was accepted right away by his new teammates.
“It was a smoother transition that I originally thought,” said Welsh-White. “The guys were very welcoming and they opened arms like another family.”
While it didn’t take long for Welsh-White to become acclimated with his new team, his play on the court was immediately successful. Playing in 28 of the Pride’s 29 contests, Welsh-White has taken full advantage of his playing time.
“Once I had learned about the traditions here and the process Coach Sullivan talks about, I knew I had to buy in immediately,” said Welsh-White.
Ranking fourth in the nation with 1.17 blocks per set, Welsh-White is also fourth on the team in kills with 138. His impressive year has been recognized as the senior was named a second-team All-American by the AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association).
Welsh-White’s impact certainly could have been seen as quite impressive being a senior transfer, but Sullivan believes it was evident from the time he stepped on campus.
“That’s what’s been great about it. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity,” said Sullivan. “You can tell he’s thirsting to take advantage of his year that he’s going to get to play college volleyball. He wants more all the time.”
Taking advantage could be thought of as an understatement as Sullivan sees the impact Welsh-White makes whether it is in practice or a game.
“He’s just a great guy with a great attitude, that’s very influential leadership-wise for us,” said Sullivan.
The tournament weekend is a time that the men’s volleyball program is very much used to. In the last four seasons, the Pride have won three national championships.
While Welsh-White has had experience playing in the MIVA (Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) conference tournament with Ball State, now he has the opportunity to chase a ring and ultimately become a champion.
“It’s definitely a special feeling knowing that I’m actually going to be able to make the post-season in my last year of eligibility,” said Welsh-White.
His volleyball career may be at the tail-end, but Welsh-White still has the championship weekend to prove just how much he takes advantage of the opportunities put in front of him.