What does a puzzle piece and a Betta fish have in common?

The Quincy University men’s volleyball team is kicking off the 2018-2019 season with a different approach.

Head Coach Gavin Mueller and Graduate Assistant Garcia Ramser decided to give the men something to look forward to to motivate them and to hold them accountable.

The motivator? A customized puzzle.

“It’s easier for us to say here’s a puzzle piece when you achieve these things, versus us saying go do this, go to this community event,” Ramser said.

The team has a 25 piece puzzle to complete by the end of their season.

At individual and team meetings early in the school year, players discussed goals they wanted to achieve personally and as a team. The coaches took these ideas, as well as their own, to create the puzzle.

Once the team completes a goal, they receive that puzzle piece.The goals are designed to continue throughout the season.

Some are specific to the time of year, such as preseason versus regular season.

The goals include, but are not limited to, meeting the team GPA goal, team bonding, wins in the MIVA (Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) and other performance goals.

The team has already started gathering pieces.

One of the pieces they received so far is one of the team bonding pieces. They went bowling at Casino Lanes as a team.

The upperclassmen say this is a big change for their team compared to other years.

“I think it’s giving us something sort of to look forward to and something to strive towards instead of just like games every week,” Blake Sprecher, junior men’s volleyball player, said.

This is Sprecher’s third year at QU. He started in 27 games last season and had 107 kills and 75 blocks.

The coaches also got the team a pet Betta fish to give them more responsibility. The team named it Rupert.

Feeding and taking care of Rupert and keeping him alive is another puzzle piece. Rupert lives in the locker room where the puzzle also stays.

Ramser hopes to see the young volleyball team grow as Rupert grows.

Ten freshmen and transfers joined the team this year. The newcomers on the team see this as an opportunity for the team to come together.

“It’s going to make the team a stronger unit. I think it’s going to make us work harder and I think that’s going to create bigger success throughout the year,” Ben Rachilla, freshman, said.

The puzzle will help the team measure their progress.

The team also has a new mantra for the year, “Better the Standard” or “BTS”, and players wear a green wristband to remind them of it daily.

Sprecher has a goal that goes beyond improving his statistics. In fact, it aligns with the team mantra.

“My goal would be to sort of change the motto and how people view us, not only at this school but in our conference as well,” Sprecher said.

Ramser said he and Mueller hope they can turn this into a tradition with each team in the upcoming years.

They hope to see how far each team comes each year, hoping that they get closer and closer to finishing each puzzle with each passing year.

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