The club vol­leyball team poses at a tour­nament last year. (Photo: Christina Dressel / Courtesy)

More com­pet­itive than intra­mural sports but less intense than col­le­giate ath­letics, club sports offer stu­dents a balance between rig­orous training and recre­ation — and Hillsdale college offers 12 teams to pick from.

“It’s a great way to take a break from every­thing,” pres­ident of the club baseball team, junior Stevan Bennett said. “I love the com­pet­itive aspect, but even more so, I love hanging out with the guys. It’s just a great all-around group and I like to think we have a lot of fun.”

Hillsdale offers a dozen dif­ferent club sports: archery, baseball, cheer­leading, crew, eques­trian, firearms, golf, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, rugby, swimming, and women’s vol­leyball. Each program requires a dif­ferent level of time com­mitment and a unique oppor­tunity for com­pe­tition.

While some clubs have been around for years, others are new to campus. Each club has a dif­ferent legacy on campus, and a story of its own.

For example, club archery began just last year. Then-freshman Joshua Brown approached Hillsdale Range Master Bart Spieth about pos­si­bil­ities for student archers. At Spieth’s rec­om­men­dation, Brown formed the archery club. The team wel­comes members of all skill levels and hosts prac­tices three times a week.

“The com­mitment is as little or great as one makes it,” Brown said. “The most com­mitted members will be attending three, two-hour weekly prac­tices and trav­eling to compete several times per semester.”

Estab­lished clubs, like men’s soccer, require greater expe­rience and a larger time com­mitment. As an asso­ciate member of the Central Division of the Midwest Alliance Soccer Con­ference, the men’s soccer team plays 10 league games each fall against teams from the Uni­versity of Michigan Ann Arbor, the Uni­versity of Michigan, Flint, Saginaw Valley State Uni­versity, Wayne State Uni­versity, and other Mid­western schools.

“Most of us who joined played a lot of soccer in high school, and so club soccer is a great way to stay in shape for college,” junior captain Max Smith said. “More than that, it’s a very com­pet­itive group of guys, in a very com­pet­itive league, where everyone has tons of soccer expe­rience and everyone is big fans of all the soccer teams around here and pro­fes­sionally.”

Smith worked to develop the team by recruiting freshmen during the summer and encour­aging them to tryout this fall. Just last week, the team selected its new members.

Time com­mitment was a problem in past years, Smith said, but this year he expects the team to be devoted.

“We are doing tons of con­di­tioning,” Smith said. “For the first time in about five years, we’re going to be in great shape for the first game of the season.”

Sure enough, on Sunday Smith and the Men’s soccer team beat the Uni­versity of Michigan, Flint 3 – 1.

Senior Christina Dressel, a women’s club vol­leyball player, said that com­mitment is also a major com­ponent of club vol­leyball.

“I think com­munity is really important to have on this campus,” she said. “And a sense of com­mitment is really important. Hillsdale stu­dents often say they have too much homework to come to practice. I think it’s important to say, ‘No, you can’t do that. You com­mitted to this.’”

Club sports are more than a task on stu­dents’ schedules, however. Teams also offer stu­dents oppor­tu­nities to build friend­ships, try new things, and have fun.

“When I was a freshman, I saw a booth at the Source and thought, ‘Hey I’m in college now, so I should try some­thing new,’” senior eques­trian team captain Gianna Marchese said. “I knew I loved riding, so I thought it would be a nice addition to an already-busy schedule. It has proven to be quite an amazing expe­rience for the three, coming up on four, years I’ve been able to be part of the team.”

The eques­trian team meets every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Pre­miere Eques­trian Center, located in Hudson, Michigan. Prac­tices are private or semi-private, with riders working with trainers in both the Western and English dis­ci­plines.

“I love it because I can use the time it takes to drive to the barn to push aside all the work I have to do and devote an hour or more to bonding with an animal and focusing on riding and tech­nique,” Marchese said. “Then, on the ride back to campus, you can slowly start thinking about what you have yet to do that evening. But it’s a nice way to ease back into a busy life on the hill.”

Club sports teams also welcome stu­dents to cheer them on at home games at com­pe­ti­tions.

“The games are a blast,” Smith said. “We always do better when there are fans to cheer us on.”

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Stevan Bennett Jr. is a senior from the pumpkin capital of the world, Morton, Illinois. He is studying economics and journalism, and plans on attending law school after Hillsdale. He has written for the Collegian since 2014 and is the sports editor. His addictions include coffee, the Chicago Cubs, NHL 2015, and miscellaneous adventuring. email: | twitter: @StevanBennett